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No-hitters are in season

Hitting has become a no-no in softball this season.

And that's just fine with the pitchers.

There have been nine no-hitters this season, including five in the past week. While batters have been scratching their heads trying to deal with some worthwhile pitching, coaches are doing the same when explaining the recent trend.

Nine years ago, Pinellas County switched from slow-pitch to fast-pitch. Pitchers needed time to adjust to the rise, drop and curveball, so they started taking private lessons and honed their skills through Little League and summer teams like those of the Bombers, Bullets and Rascals.

Now, the pitcher's time has come.

"It is a pitcher's game," Countryside coach Scott Kitchen said. "Some people looked forward to it when we switched to fast-pitch and some didn't. There are teams that have pitching and teams that don't, but everybody knows pitching is the name of the game."

Pitching has accounted for a slowdown in hits, along with runs. There have been nine one-hitters and more than a dozen shutouts.

"I don't know if the hitting is down," Northeast coach Sheryl Hollen said. "I think the pitching might be up. Amanda (Bettker) is throwing the best that she's ever thrown. She's just been awesome."

Indeed. In two games last week, Bettker allowed just one hit and struck out 38 batters. She threw the first no-hitter of the week against Dixie Hollins, striking out 17 and walking one. Against Lakewood, Bettker allowed just one hit _ a single with one out in the seventh inning. She struck out 21 batters.

Kasey Dowd of Countryside followed with her first no-hitter of the year in a 12-0 victory over Palm Harbor University. Keswick Christian, Lakeside Christian and River Ridge also had pitchers who threw no-hitters last week.

AND THE WINNER IS : One down, one to go in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference division races.

Seminole has a clear advantage toward representing the North Division in the PCAC championship game, thanks to victories over Countrysideand East Lake. The Warhawks (6-0, 3-0 in the conference) are the only unbeaten team left.

The South county competition starts this week with two key games _ Northeast at Gibbs on Tuesday and Gibbs at St. Petersburg on Thursday. While the North teams are counting their first game against one another toward conference standings, the South coaches voted to count the second game.

AROUND THE BASES: Palm Harbor University sophomore Tara Sneddon is recovering from a bruised spine suffered during the Clearwater Invitational two weeks ago. She was released from the hospital last Wednesday and watched the Hurricanes beat Osceola. She hopes to return for district play. After starting the season 2-3, Northeast has won five in a row. Clearwater travels to Shreveport, La., for the Houghton High School Invitational this weekend. Shorecrest, Lakeside Christian, Oldsmar Christian and Pinellas Park each won its first game of the year last week.