CLEARWATER — The reason for Countryside losing three of its previous five games could have been written in boldface capital letters, underlined and highlighted with a fluorescent marker.
Defensive miscues were the culprit. Simply put, the Cougars have committed too many of them, including two costly ones in an eight-inning loss to Northeast two weeks ago that dropped Countryside from the top of the Class 7A, District 9 standings.
On Tuesday, the Cougars were determined not to beat themselves again in their rematch with the Vikings. Countryside’s defense was nearly perfect with key plays that bailed the team out of several jams. In the bottom of the eighth, the offense came through as Sommer Pollard hit a single that brought home Brooke Sharpe in a 1-0 victory.
“The defense kept us in it, and I felt like it was only a matter of time before we got something going on offense,” Cougars coach Kaylyn Bayly said. “Just looking at who we had coming up in the eighth, it seemed like we could get something done there.”
Countryside (7-3) went through three pitchers — Alyssa Queen, Samantha Ramasanto and Stella Preston — none of whom are strikeout specialists. That puts a premium on the defense to make plays. The Cougars came through, leaving the Vikings with nine base runners stranded.
Northeast runners were twice thrown out at home. The Cougars got out of other jams, too, including a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the sixth inning, and runners at first and second with one out in the eighth.
“We have a really strong outfield and anyone playing out there can catch and has a good enough arm to throw anyone out,” Bayly said.
Countryside had its chances, as well. The Vikings thwarted most of them. It wasn’t until the eighth that the Cougars were able to capitalize with Sharpe and Andrea Fredericks each singling to set up Pollard’s winning hit.
“I was just looking to hit a level shot,” Pollard said. “I wanted to get a hit that could end the game and that was a good time to get it.”
The Vikings, who started 5-0, have lost three straight, all coming against district opponents. Kayla Stellwag led Northeast on offense with three hits.