CLEARWATER — Countryside coach Kaylyn Bayly has never been too worried about her team’s offense. It’s defense that gives her anxiety. In nearly every loss, the Cougars have committed costly errors.
But after some hiccups early on Wednesday, Countryside’s defense turned in two key plays in a 5-1 victory over Steinbrenner in the Class 7A region quarterfinals.
“We struggled at times in the first few innings,” Bayly said. “But the girls settled down, got it together and played really strong defense after that.”
In the first inning, Countryside (23-5) went ahead 3-0 with the big hit coming on a two-run triple by Kelsie Sanchez. The Cougars added a run in the second inning on an RBI single by Hailee Keisling.
Ahead 4-0, Countryside committed two errors, allowing one run to score in the third inning. But the Cougars got of the jam by turning a double play on a groundout to first and throwing a runner out at second.
In the fourth inning, Steinbrenner threatened to score again. But Countryside pitcher Alyssa Queen alertly threw home on a relay and Keisling applied the tag for the final out of the inning. Steinbrenner had just one hit after that.
Keisling led the Cougars by going 4-for-4 with two RBIs.
“I looked at good pitches and knew what I wanted,” Keisling said. “I’m kind of familiar with the pitching because we play a lot in travel ball. I didn’t have a lot of big hits, but I was able to do enough to get on base and I have great teammates who were able to bring me in.”
7A: Seminole blanked
Rachel Dwyer pitched a two-hitter, Madison Gonzalez had two hits and Bianka Bell sealed the victory with her eighth home run as host Chamberlain beat Seminole 3-0 in a Class 7A region quarterfinal.
After losing their final three games of the regular season, Chamberlain has won three straight, with Dwyer allowing only three runs.
Seniors Ellen Scott and Jennie Cook had RBIs in the third and fourth innings to stake the Chiefs (23-7) to a lead.
Chiefs coach Bobby Diez said he was impressed with Seminole, which kept the game close with a number of excellent defensive plays to rob the Chiefs of a breakout inning. But Dwyer never let the Warhawks offense get going.
5A: Hill bails out Falcons
DUNEDIN — After jumping ahead 4-2, Dunedin watched its lead evaporate when Lennard scored two runs in the fifth inning to tie the score Wednesday.
Suddenly the Falcons’ first postseason win in 21 years was in jeopardy. With one swing, Tiona Hill made it all better.
Hill hit a three-run double with two outs to help the Falcons (17-7) retake the lead. This time, the defense held on for a 7-5 victory in the Class 5A region quarterfinals.
“I was nervous,” Hill said. “I think everyone was. I had two strikes on me and there were two outs. I just had to keep battling. I saw a good pitch and put the ball out there.”
In the district tournament, the Falcons breezed through both games, winning by a combined score of 15-0. Wednesday’s game started that way with Dunedin jumping out to a 3-0 lead.
But the Longhorns would not go away. They scored twice in the third inning to cut the deficit to 3-2. After Dunedin scored once in the third , Lennard responded by scoring twice in the fifth to tie.
“This was a sloppy game by us,” Falcons coach Roy Silver said. “Lennard is a scrappy team. They have a lot of good hitters. There were a couple of things that could have cost us the game. But we came through. A win is a win.”
In the sixth inning, the Falcons had bases loaded with two outs when Hill was at the plate.
“Tiona has been hitting the ball well,” Silver said. “There’s a reason she’s where she’s at in the lineup. I just gave the take sign and she took it from there.”
After Lennard pulled within 7-5 in the seventh, Dunedin pitcher Aubrey Ehlers ended the threat by retiring the final three batters.
5A: Bogie D stands tall
TAMPA — Mallory Allen could breathe after all. And Boca Ciega’s defense was able to take the life out of Robinson.
Boca Ciega played nearly flawless on defense, and Allen threw a gritty 10-hit shutout as the Pirates (13-6) defeated Robinson 2-0.
Robinson (13-13) stranded 11 base runners, six in scoring position. Allen (12-6) threw 103 pitches, 76 for strikes, and sparked the Pirates’ two-run sixth against loser Sarah Miller (8-4).
“The key was to breathe, in and out,” Allen said. “I was shaking. Sure, you feel the pressure, but you’ve got to get out of (trouble). Our defense made a lot of plays that normally don’t happen. We just stepped it up.”
Allen, a senior, struck out five and didn’t walk a batter. She had only one perfect inning as Robinson applied constant pressure. Boca Ciega’s defense prevented four Robinson hits with outstanding plays in the final four innings. And leftfielder Kaylyn Munroe’s hustle on a double by Alexis Jackson (three hits) made courtesy runner Kari Trautvetter stop at third, keeping the game scoreless in the fifth.
In the sixth, Allen walked, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on an infield single by Brittany Price. Kristin Stuber added an RBI single.
“We got absolutely shredded in our district final on defense (a 7-0 loss to Dunedin),” Boca Ciega coach Timothy Brooks said. “We spent every minute of practice since that final refining our defense. It showed.”
3A: SPC, Northside fall
St. Petersburg Catholic won its district thanks to an offense that averaged more than 10 runs per game in the tournament.
On Wednesday, the runs were there again. SPC jumped out to a 4-1 lead. But two bad innings did the Barons in, as they fell 8-7 to Bradenton Christian.
Bradenton Christian scored four runs in the third inning to go ahead 5-4. SPC rallied with a run in the bottom of the third. But BC came back with two runs in the fourth. Kelsey Humphrey pitched well and came through on offense to lead the Barons.
In another 3A quarterfinal, Sarasota Cardinal Mooney topped Northside Christian 8-3.
Staff writer John C. Cotey and correspondent Don Jensen contributed to this report.