PALM HARBOR — Countryside coach Kemo O'Sullivan has oriented the Cougars' run toward one of the top seeds in Class 6A, District 7 by preaching the gospel of strong pitching. As he plotted it, Countryside would be better armed, less reliant on the bat and ready to showcase the abundance of talent in its rotation.
The message hasn't always gotten through. In his first three seasons, O'Sullivan has yet to guide Countryside to a playoff berth.
But after winning five of their first seven games, including Wednesday's 7-2 victory over Palm Harbor University — the third district win this season — the Cougars were rumbling about being a serious postseason contender.
Believe it. Armed with a real, live pitching attack, Countryside has the arsenal to take on top teams and take command of the district.
"Pitching has been the big thing for us," O'Sullivan said. "We have a multitude of guys that we can throw out there and know they'll get the job done."
Chris Frey started against the Hurricanes and pitched six scoreless innings before giving up two runs in the seventh. He allowed four hits and improved to 4-0.
"We knew this was a must-win if we want to keep our hopes of getting one of the top two seeds in the district," Frey said. "We worked hard all week, and this was huge for us. We just have to keep pitching and play defense. That's what will win us games."
Frey got all the support he needed in the fourth inning when Countryside broke open a scoreless game with five runs. The Cougars did not score by mashing the ball. Instead, they worked the count, drawing four walks and taking advantage of a batter being hit by a pitch. The only big hit in the inning came from Kiefer Sullivan, who had a two-RBI single.
Countryside added two insurance runs in the seventh. The Hurricanes scored their two runs in the bottom half of the inning, but the rally ended after they had runners picked off for the final two outs.
With the win, the Cougars improve to 3-1 in the district and a chance to move into first place in 6A-7 when they host Sarasota on Friday.
"We're 5-2 right now, but we're not hitting on all cylinders — yet," O'Sullivan said. "We've been in every game, and we hope we can keep it going with our last district game."