PINELLAS PARK — It was prom night at Countryside on Friday, but its baseball team couldn’t go to the biggest party of the school year. It was busy playing Seminole in the Class 7A, District 10 final, and judging by the party on the Pinellas Park pitcher’s mound, the Cougars had more fun than their classmates.
Backed by solid pitching from Christian Townsend, clutch hitting by Charlie Skantze and three late-inning double plays, the Cougars shut out Seminole 3-0 to win the district championship.
Countryside (17-10) will host Wiregrass Ranch on Thursday in the region quarterfinal. Seminole (20-7) has the daunting task of playing at Steinbrenner (23-2).
“I’d much rather be here (than prom),” Townsend said. “It’s great to be part of a district championship.”
Townsend, who pitched 6 1/3 innings and scattered five hits, survived control problems in the first inning. He walked two but managed to get three flyballs to get out of the inning.
In the top of the second, Countryside got all the runs it needed. Bobby Krayer led off with a single but was thrown out by Seminole catcher Michael Mann trying to steal. Jack Skantze followed with a single, and both Kevin Rosinski and Johnathan Feibus were walked by Tylor Craft.
With the bases loaded and two out, Charlie Skantze came through with a single to center that scored Jack Skantze and Rosinski.
“I had two strikes so I was looking fastball,” Charlie Skantze said. “I just wanted to put it in play and get some runs in, and that’s what I did. The two pitches before I was chasing and didn’t get a good feel for the pitcher. On the last pitch I settled down.”
Townsend got through the first four innings without much trouble. His teammates got him another run in the top of the fourth when Zach Taylor singled home Mike Adams with two out to make it 3-0.
The fifth inning started a trend for the Cougars. Townsend got out of trouble in the fifth when he coaxed Corey Baptist into an inning-ending double-play groundout.
The sixth inning ended with a 5-4-3 double play ball by Mann. In the seventh inning, with two on and one out, Townsend was relieved by Charlie Skantze.
Skantze got Seminole leadoff hitter Alex McGathey to ground into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play. Seminole did not get a runner past second base.
“The double plays saved me,” Townsend said. “It saved the whole game. If they don’t do that, it’s bases loaded and it’s a different ball game.”
Countryside coach Kemo O’Sullivan originally lobbied to have Friday’s game switched to Thursday so his team could attend prom. He is glad that didn’t happen.
“Our practice (Thursday) was the worst in three years,” O’Sullivan said. “We were spent. We spent a lot of energy in the game before (against Pinellas Park).
“But we got a good night’s sleep and came out on fire.”
Seminole coach Jeff Pincus said his team couldn’t match Countryside’s intensity.
“They were the better team,” Pincus said. “My hat is literally off to them. They were fired up from the beginning and for whatever reason we couldn’t match it.”
6A-12: Osceola pitcher gets redemption
SEMINOLE — Osceola pitcher Justin Kremer got the second chance he was waiting for. Last year in the Class 6A, District 12 final at Lakewood Ranch, Kremer was one strike from winning before giving up a game-tying double. The Warriors lost in extra innings.
This time around, Kremer and the Warriors got their district championship thanks to a convincing 9-2 win over Dixie Hollins. Osceola (15-10) will host Leto on Wednesday night. Dixie Hollins (11-14) will play at King.
“I was so pumped to play this game,” Kremer said. “After what happened last year, I wanted to win a district championship for my team.”
Osceola broke open the game with five runs in the second inning. Buddy Dougherty had an RBI single and Austin Brockway added a two-RBI single in the inning. Brockway was 3-for-3 with a walk. Keith Weisenberg was 2-for-3.
Kremer, who improved to 4-3, recorded four strikeouts and gave up seven hits and two earned runs to get the complete-game win.
5A-12: Dunedin cools off Lakewood
DUNEDIN — Lakewood was red-hot coming into Friday’s 5A-12 district final. The Spartans had just come off a seventh-inning comeback victory over Boca Ciega.
Against Dunedin, Lakewood got a run off a blooper that dropped fair from Donovan Pink then a fielding error let another run across and the Spartans were up 2-1 and the scent of upset was in the air again.
However, the Falcons proved timely hitting and defense win more often than magic as they got three runs back in the fourth then four in the sixth for an 8-2 victory. The Falcons won the title in their second year in their new District 12. They stay will host Robinson while Lakewood has the unenviable task of traveling to Jesuit.
“Those (Jesuit and Robinson) are both good teams; we went down and watched them last night,” Falcons coach Tom Hilbert said. “No matter who you have, you’ll have to play a quality game or you won’t play one next week.”
Switch-hitter Aaron Chesson, who pitches and has three home runs right-handed, batted lefty Friday night and got things touched off for Dunedin. Chesson tripled to right-center and eventually scored, stretched another hit to right-center into a double and scored again, then came up in the sixth a smacked a bases-clearing triple down the first-base line that all but put away the game.
Falcons starting pitcher Alex Hart made sure it stayed away. Hart went the complete seven innings and gave up only one earned run on four hits. He caught a liner hit right at him with runners at the corners and two out in the fifth then etched three of his four strikeouts in the sixth and seventh innings to help set down the Spartans in order each one inning.
“He (Hart) wanted it, he wanted to finish. I’m sure he was just throwing on adrenaline by then,” Hibbert said. “I just couldn’t take him out.”
3A-9: Pitching key for CCC
Clearwater Central Catholic is headed back to regionals, as the Marauders blanked Calvary Christian 4-0 to win the 3A-9 title.
Starting pitcher Mike Del Monte held the Warriors to just three hits. He got into some trouble in the sixth, when consecutive errors and a single by Matt Piatt loaded the bases with one out. But Del Monte struck out the next batter and got Grant McDaniel to fly out.
Calvary Christian (21-7) started the seventh inning strong, as Del Monte hit the first batter of the inning, and Johnnie Schneider singled.
Tyler Simmons came in to relieve and struck out Noah Brunk. The Marauders secured the win when the next two batters popped out and flied out.
“Mike threw well start to finish,” said CCC coach Todd Vaughan. “We played outstanding defense and got some clutch hits.”
David Paul, who pitched a three-hitter in Wednesday’s semifinal win over Northside Christian, had two doubles Friday. His double in the bottom of the third gave CCC a 2-0 lead. Andrew Murphy then singled later in the inning with the bases loaded to drive in two more runs.
“Winning districts is always nice,” said Vaughan. “It’s not the goal, but winning helps us tonight because we can be home.”
Correspondents Andy Warrener and Anthony Salveggi contributed to this report.