If there is one thing lacking in Pinellas County softball, it is tournaments. There are none during spring break and few during the rest of the season.
The Palm Harbor Invitational, which starts Friday at the Eddie C. Moore Complex in Clearwater, is the biggest one in the county, featuring 12 teams.
The tournament includes a defending state champion (Canterbury), a defending state semifinalist (East Lake) and a former three-time state title winner (Palm Harbor University).
As a bonus, the USF Under Armour tournament is being held at the same time at Eddie C. Moore, giving players a chance to be noticed by colleges. The PHU Invitational is split into four pools that will compete in a round-robin format before playing elimination games. Here is the breakdown of the pools.
Teams: Bloomingdale, East Lake, Osceola
Outlook: East Lake, which was ranked nationally last year, graduated the majority of its lineup. But the Eagles have not suffered much of a drop-off with just one loss this season. Osceola has a prolific offense, led by Kara Oberer, who has six home runs this season. But the Warriors have not faced many teams in the upper echelon of the county and will be tested this weekend.
Teams: Countryside, East Bay, Plant
Outlook: Countryside has a young lineup that is starting to come around. Hailee Keisling, who hit safely in all 26 games last season, is off to another strong start. After playing mostly county teams, the Cougars face some of the best from Hillsborough County.
Teams: Canterbury, Jefferson, Seminole
Outlook: Canterbury coach Jody Moore prefers to play teams in higher classifications to get her team ready for the postseason. The Crusaders will get that chance with games against Seminole and Jefferson, both playoff contenders. The Warhawks, led by pitcher Jen Sittloh, could give Canterbury its toughest matchup.
Teams: Palm Harbor University, Pinellas Park, Robinson
Outlook: PHU has survived several injuries to stay at the top among county teams. Samantha McCloskey has ignited the Hurricanes’ offense with her ability to hit home runs. Last year, Pinellas Park was in the PCAC championship game. But the Patriots are young this season and could use a strong performance this weekend to give them a lift in the second half of the season.
Palm Harbor Tournament
When/where: Friday-Saturday. Eddie C. Moore Complex, Clearwater
Admission: $5 per day
Friday: Bloomingdale vs. Osceola, 6; Countryside vs. Plant, 6; Canterbury vs. Jefferson, 6; PHU vs. Pinellas Park, 8; East Lake vs. Osceola, 8; Countryside vs. East Bay, 8
Saturday: East Lake vs. Bloomingdale, 9 a.m.; Seminole vs. Jefferson, 9; Robinson vs. Pinellas Park, 9; Plant vs. East Bay, 11; Canterbury vs. Seminole, 11; PHU vs. Robinson, 11
All teams will be seeded 1-12 after round-robin pool play
Saturday: No. 1 vs. No. 4, 1 p.m.; No. 5 vs. No. 8,1; No. 9 vs. No. 12, 1; No. 2 vs. No. 3, 3 p.m.; No. 6 vs. No. 7, 3; No. 10 vs. No. 11, 3; consolations, 5; final, 7