CLEARWATER — Countryside's Ayanna Andrews takes her role as Cougars leadoff hitter seriously.
Andrews, one of the county's fastest players, strives to reach base safely during every plate appearance. She believes her speed on the basepaths will generally lead to a run.
And with sophomore flamethrower Alyssa Bache on the mound, one run might be enough for the Cougars.
Saturday against Palm Harbor University in the second of two bracket championship games at the Hurricanes' spring softball tournament at the Eddie C. Moore Complex, Andrews put her speed to good use, scoring the game's only run in a 1-0 Countryside win. Pinellas Park beat East Lake 6-3 to win the other bracket title.
"The way you start off a game is pretty much how it's going to keep going," Andrews said. "I just try to start off really good. … As the leadoff hitter, I try to keep everybody hyped up."
Andrews drew a walk against PHU lefty Taylor Sabol (12-1) to start the bottom half of the first for Countryside (13-3). Two pitches later, Andrews stole second. After Brittany Dattilo popped out on a bunt attempt, Andrews stole third.
With two outs, the Cougars Holly Ostrander singled to rightfield to score Andrews.
"We were hyped up for this game," Andrews said. "We definitely came in here with the mind-set that we have to do good."
Bache (13-3) surrendered only three hits against a potent PHU lineup over seven innings. PHU (17-3) didn't have a player in scoring position until the sixth, when it put runners on first and second with one out. Bache got the next two batters to fly out.
In the seventh, PHU's Laura Herndon led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. But, Bache struck out pinch-hitter Kaitlyn Santo and Stephanie Koutsoumbaris to complete the shutout.
Countryside beat Seminole 10-2 on Friday to finish 2-0 in its bracket. PHU went 1-1 after defeating Seminole 20-2 in six innings earlier in the day.
"We are meshing better as a team," Andrews said. "We lost a lot of people last year. This year, the team wasn't really all together at the beginning. We're just starting to come together now."
In the tournament's other bracket, Pinellas Park defeated Osceola and East Lake to go 2-0 and finish as champion.
Against East Lake for the bracket title, Pinellas Park's Sara Nevins crushed a three-run homer in the fourth inning well beyond the rightfield fence to complete a 6-3 victory.
"That ball was hit hard. That was a rocket," Patriots coach Shane DeMartino said. "That's the first ball I've seen hit out of this park. With two runners on, that was big."
Pinellas Park took an early 2-0 lead after an RBI double by Courtney Lonardo and a run-scoring single from Tricia Lukert.
East Lake (14-5) rallied to take the lead after Kirsten Bembnowski started the Eagles offense with a triple and came home on Sydney Dinelli's sacrifice fly. Kelsey Oonk tied the game with a RBI single, and a Pinellas Park error brought home East Lake's third run.
Nevins (19-2), who had 17 strikeouts to shut out Osceola 3-0 in Saturday's first game, recorded nine more against the Eagles. East Lake was 1-1 after defeating Osceola on Friday.