By JASON PAFUNDI
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 14, 2002
PALM HARBOR -- In any game against a nationally-ranked opponent, execution is key. When that opponent is also rival Countryside, it becomes everything.
Well, the Hurricanes didn't execute Saturday and lost to the Cougars 2-0 in a game that started Friday but was halted in the second inning because of rain.
"We didn't execute; bottom line," PHU coach Chuck Poetter said. "We had five plays put on and we didn't execute any of them. We missed several signs and several opportunities."
Bree Spence pitched a complete game, three-hit shutout for Countryside, which improved to 25-1 on the season. Jessica Brinkman (10-2) allowed two runs and six hits for the Hurricanes (22-4).
"They hit me a little more than I'd like, but overall I think I did well," Spence said. "My catcher (Erin Brunt) helped me out because we are a team inside a team."
Countryside, ranked No. 2 in Class 5A and No. 4 in the nation by StudentSports.com, scored a run in the first inning Friday when Kattrina Dowd led off with a double and later scored on a fielder's choice by centerfielder Carly Broeske.
"Both teams know that one run is huge," Countryside coach Scott Kitchen said. "We scored that run (Friday) and I think that sent a message."
The previous three games have been 1-0, extra-inning affairs.
"We wanted to make a statement that we could score more than one run in 14 innings," Kitchen said.
On Saturday, the Cougars scored an insurance run in the seventh. Brunt reached on an error by Hurricanes second baseman Jessica Barbosa. Broeske then doubled down the leftfield line to give the Cougars a two-run lead.
In the fifth and sixth innings, Countryside had opportunities to break the game open, but left the bases loaded in both frames.
"We had the bottom of our order up but fortunately we got that run in the last inning," Kitchen said. "I think that took some air out because I don't think they thought they could get two runs on us in one inning."
Palm Harbor, ranked No. 3 in 5A, had its best chance to score in the fourth.
Centerfielder Brandi Portalatin, who saved a run in the sixth with a diving catch, singled. Barbosa followed with a single and both runners advanced on a passed ball.
Poetter called for a suicide squeeze but the sign was missed and Portalatin was tagged out trying to steal home. Barbosa moved to third on the play, but the next two Hurricanes struck out to end the threat.