CLEARWATER — Kaylyn Bayly's biggest concern wasn't getting her offense started, it was getting them to finish their opportunities.
"We've had trouble with leaving too many runners on base, especially in the last couple of games," said the veteran Countryside coach, not exactly a great situation with tournament season starting.
The Cougars stayed persistent Wednesday night, finding their stride as pitcher Stella Preston silenced the bats of the team that ejected them from regionals last year, eventually topping Sarasota 7-0.
Countryside (22-4) will host Lakewood Ranch, a 5-1 victor over East Lake, in the Class 8A region semifinals on Tuesday.
The visiting Sailors (12-12) extended at-bats but the senior stayed strong, allowing just two hits, walking one and hitting a batter while striking out six.
"I knew they were good hitters," Preston said. "I had to try and stay with it, keep fighting them. I was like, 'Let's just come back and get revenge.' "
Preston also flung the leather, ending Sarasota's first and third, third-inning scoring threat by snatching a line drive and turning it into an inning-ending double play.
By then, the Cougars were already ahead thanks to a Cheyenne Blumberg first-inning RBI double and Alice Gannaway's run-scoring base hit in the second, both coming with two outs.
Junior Makenzie Griffin (three hits) put the game out of reach from there, placing a third-inning single just over first base to score Kayla Sanchez (single), followed by an emphatic base hit to right in the sixth that plated Sanchez (walk) and Emily Hollenbeck (single, two RBIs).
"I just try to keep my hands inside and drive the ball the opposite way," said the right-handed Griffin, Countryside's second-leading batter. "We want to keep the season going for the seniors for as long as we can."