PINELLAS PARK — Countryside and Pinellas Park trotted out their aces in the first Class 7A, District 9 game of the season Tuesday night, and neither disappointed.
The Cougars' Christian Townsend bested Pinellas Park's Brandon Grigsby by striking out nine and wiggling out of trouble in the seventh inning for a 2-0 win.
Townsend allowed three hits, walked one and threw 77 pitches in a complete game. He also doubled in the fourth, leading to Countryside's first run.
"Loved the pitch count," Countryside coach Kemo O'Sullivan said. "He's tough. He's a bulldog. And he's not coming out of the game. If I would've taken him out in the seventh inning he probably would have beaten me up."
Grigsby struck out eight and allowed five hits. But his teammates couldn't come up with any clutch hits off Townsend.
Both pitchers cruised through three innings, but in the fourth Grigsby ran into trouble. Townsend doubled with one out and Steven Wilson pinch-ran. Wilson reached third on a passed ball then Mike Adams' looping liner to right landed just fair, scoring Wilson.
Grigsby got out of the inning after that, but Townsend was only getting better.
"That really settled me down," Townsend said. "Pitching when it's 0-0, it's like starting a new game every inning. But when you have the lead the other team is pressured and you have control of the game."
Townsend faced the minimum for the next three innings. Meanwhile, the Cougars (5-0) scored again in the sixth. With two outs, Brian Brown and Jack Skantze walked. Kevin Rosinski reached on an infield single to load the bases. Charlie Skantze then hit a grounder to shortstop, but the ball was bobbled as Brown scored the second run.
"That was a big exhale," O'Sullivan said. "It changes the whole ballgame. It changes the way we play defense. It was big."
The Patriots (4-3) threatened in the seventh. Triston Allen led off with a double. One out later, Zach Roberts walked and Allen reached third on a passed ball. Grigsby then flew out to the pitcher and Derek Jaar struck out to end the game.
"We had a couple opportunities to swing the bat and drive guys in and we didn't do it," Patriots coach Pat Russo said.