PALM HARBOR — All games during the regular season hold some importance, but this week in particular promises to play a significant role in the fortunes of the Palm Harbor University softball team.
Two of the Hurricanes' season goals — playing in next week's Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship game and earning the top seed for the 6A-7 district tournament — can be met by the end of the week.
The Hurricanes will wrap up the regular-season district championship Friday with a win at Sarasota Riverview.
Tuesday, PHU solidified its spot in the PCAC championship, crushing Countryside 11-1 in five innings to earn the North County title.
The Hurricanes (17-3) spotted Countryside a run in the second inning before igniting offensively for six runs in the third and three more in the fourth.
"This is an interesting group," PHU coach Chuck Poetter said. "When they play up to their potential they're very, very good."
After falling behind 1-0, PHU tied the game in the bottom of the second when freshman Moriah Connolly belted a home run over the centerfield fence.
In the third, the Hurricanes took the lead for good on Madison O'Brien's RBI single. Two wild pitches and a passed ball put three more runs on the board in the third, and Jess Adams' double to the top of the wall in leftfield made it 6-1.
In the fourth, Adams' two-out single with the bases loaded scored a run. Adams, a freshman, collected two RBIs and went 2-for-3.
"She's been the leading hitter on my team for most of the year, but she's been in a little bit of a slump recently so her average has dipped," Poetter said.
Countryside (11-10) scored its run on Kelsie Sanchez's two-out double that scored Holly Ostrander.
O'Brien was 2-for-3 with two singles and a walk for PHU. Hurricanes starting pitcher Taylor Sabol allowed one run on two hits in five innings. Sabol, a left-hander, walked two batters and struck out one.
Northside Christian 4, Shorecrest 2: Northside Christian completed a regular-season sweep of district (2A-11) foe Shorecrest.
Tiffany Boyer broke open a 1-all tie in the third inning at Shorecrest with a bases-loaded bloop single that scored two.
The victory wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the district tournament for Northside.
After Shorecrest cut the Mustangs' advantage to 3-2 in the sixth, Lauren Tozour hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh to score Kayla Turner and push Northside's lead back to two runs.
Mustangs pitcher Jessica Anderson went the distance, giving up two runs on three hits with five strikeouts.
"Jess (Anderson) is throwing as well as I've seen her throw in a long time," said Northside coach John Anderson, the pitcher's father.
The Mustangs (13-2) were outstanding defensively, particularly shortstop Stephanie Bonalewicz, who made five plays in the field.
Two of Shorecrest's three hits were doubles. Hannah Smith and Hayley Jayson had extra-base hits for the Chargers.
The Mustangs finish their regular-season district schedule undefeated.