It's no secret Naples cranks out some of the best softball talent in Florida. Its District 18 majors team has won a host of sectional titles and has World Series experience to say the least. Well, Countryside (District 12) put an end to its sectional run Wednesday night.
Jennifer Battaglia led Countryside to a 1-0 win over Naples to take the Sectional title.
"She had the flu the night before," coach Steve Weiss said. "She just gave a gutsy performance."
Battaglia (2-0) went 6 innings, scattered 5 hits and struck out 4 in picking up the victory.
But the most exciting part of the evening came courtesy of Weiss' daughter, Julia, when she stole home for the winning run. Jessica and Kristen Engelmann and Becky Watkins provided excellent defense to aid Battaglia in the shutout.
"They were the 9-10 state champs two years ago," Weiss said. "They are a great group of kids and they put in a real team effort."
Countryside will play the Section 3 winner in the state tournament on Saturday in Lantana.
MORE SECTIONAL NEWS: After its 10-6 loss to District 5 (Seminole), District 12's (Palm Harbor American) major baseball team won the losers' bracket final 7-1 against District 16 on Tuesday. Tyler Clippard pitched a three-hitter and was assisted defensively by a double play from Shawn Hooten. Ryan Harvey, Ryan Dlpirak, Jonathan Pinke and Garrett Tyler all hit homers to give District 12 the win.
Wednesday night, Pinellas teams met again in the final. Luis Guerrero pitched for District 5, and threw seven strikeouts. District 12 led 5-3 going into the bottom of the sixth, when Steven Doetsch and T.J. Layfield each hit solo homers to tie the game.
A pinch-hit double by Peter Guastella and a hit by Brandon Giles put two runners on base. Then Guerrero stepped up and slammed one out of the park to bring in three runs and win the game. Seminole moves on to the state tournament, starting Saturday in Port St. Lucie.
District 12 (Dunedin National) came back through the losers' bracket in junior baseball and defeated District 9 20-10 on Tuesday. Jon Shapland struck out six through seven innings, and had three RBI. Jon Irving and Jesse Wilborn had two RBI apiece, and Phillip Duncan, Ben Gomez, Kenny Holmberg and Craig Martinov each had one.
District 5's (Seminole) seniors posted an 11-5 victory over District 12 (West Pasco) Tuesday in the losers' bracket final. Will Ganci pitched five innings, and was assisted by Mike Hoben and Scott Mazzei. Alex Biggs led the offense with three RBI on two hits. Hoben, Andy Metcalf and Keith Stegbauer brought in two each, and Mazzei had one. Tim Beatty helped out with two hits, while Ryan Klee and Joe Kube each hit one.
In a tight championship game, District 5 lost 6-5 to District 9 with Hoben, Klee, Mazzei and Stegbauer combining to hold District 9 to five hits. Leading the offense were Biggs, Randy Hart, Stegbauer and Adam Wilzinski with two hits apiece and Klee with one. District 5 finished all-star play with a 6-2 record.
District 12 played a double-header Monday in big league softball, defeating District 9 8-2 and District 5 1-0 to take the sectional title. They move on to the state tournament, starting Monday at the Helen Howarth fields in Pinellas Park.
FLORIDA LITTLE MAJORS: District 5's Northwest Minor-Major League team placed second in their state tournament this week, winning five games before loosing 4-3 to Key West in the final. Northwest blew past Gulf Breeze 15-3, defeated Jacksonville 11-1, beat Ormond Beach 10-6 and slipped by Jacksonville 6-5 in the semifinal. David Golliner was Northwest's offensive MVP, and A.J. Liebau and Matt Taber were the defensive MVPs.