PALM HARBOR — Wednesday’s 6A-7 district semifinal between Palm Harbor University and Countryside featured two of the better offensive teams in the county. So naturally, everyone on both teams struggled at the plate in an unexpected low-scoring affair.
Everyone, that is, except Hurricane Madison O’Brien.
O’Brien, a Florida State signee, crushed a home run to straightaway centerfield to lead off the fifth inning and build a 3-1 advantage for PHU. Then in the sixth, O’Brien laced an opposite-field, two-out single to bring home an insurance run in the Hurricanes’ 4-1 victory.
“It just kept carrying,” said O’Brien of her third home run of the season. “It was a good way to start off the inning. I was just looking for a base hit to get something started.”
PHU (21-4) advances to the region tournament for the 12th time in the past 13 seasons.
“I’m not happy, but we’re still alive,” PHU coach Chuck Poetter said. “…We just didn’t play aggressive softball. …At this level, if you don’t play aggressive, you come home disappointed.”
The Hurricanes scored the first run in the third inning when Emily Hazzard singled to center field with two outs, bringing home Lindsay Fenlon.
Countryside (13-13) answered immediately. Paige Oxendine’s fourth-inning single past a diving second baseman with two outs scored Hailee Keisling.
The Hurricanes took the lead for good in the bottom of the fourth. Jess Adams led off with a double, and Megan Copeland delivered the clutch hit, blooping a single to leftfield with two outs to score Adams.
PHU’s Taylor Sabol, who limited the Cougars to five hits, struck out six in a solid, steady performance.
With the loss, Countryside’s streak of 11 straight regional appearances comes to an end.
“We fought hard,” Cougars coach Kaylyn Bayly said. “The game could have changed on a base hit here or an error there, but it just didn’t happen for us.”