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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Call it nerves if you will, but shaky plays crush Cougars' title aspirations.
By JOE SMITH
Published May 12, 2007
PLANT CITY - Countryside junior Brittany Dattilo was so nervous she couldn't breathe.
She stepped out of the batter's box in the seventh inning of Friday's state semifinal with the Cougars down two runs to Palmetto and one strike from elimination.
"I wasn't going out without a fight, " she said.
Dattilo fouled off several pitches before sealing an infield single with a headfirst slide; the hit loaded the bases and brought Cougars players out of their seats.
"The only emotion I had, " senior Brooke Mitchell said, "was absolute desperation."
But the Cougars desperate, two-out rally fell short; they scored once on an error before losing 2-1 to Palmetto at Plant City Stadium.
In the end, Countryside's season-high seven errors cost the Cougars and ace Desiree Baker, who delivered another strong start while suffering from elbow tendonitis.
Palmetto faces Everglades today at 1 p.m. to try for their second state title in five years.
"We didn't deserve to win, " Countryside coach Kaylyn Bayly. "For as much as we fought and battled, you can't make that many mistakes."
The Cougars 24-6, playing in their first state semifinal since their 2002 championship, appeared to let their excitement get to them. Several throws were high, a couple errors came on miscommunication.
Then there were the weird bounces. In the fourth, Palmetto's rally was sparked by a hustle play from Countryside centerfielder Beth Williamson (2-for-3). Williamson charged in for a lower liner, which bounced off her glove before she inadvertently kicked it into the infield. The batter, Palmetto catcher Amanda Marquez, advanced to second. Marquez then scored on a well-placed bunt by Cristina Pardinas, who pushed a pitch in the hole between Baker and first base, eventually rolling to the lip of rightfield.
Palmetto added a much-needed insurance run in the fifth. Countryside first baseman Ali Lamb chased down a foul flyball near the dugout, but when runners at first and second tagged up and tried to advance, Lamb's errant throw to third led to another run.
Offensively, the Cougars had trouble cracking Palmetto pitcher Kelly Saco. Saco had shut out Countryside earlier in the season, and on Friday, she frustrated Cougars with her offspeed junk, forcing 15 flyouts.
"But they never quit, " Bayly said. "You saw that in the last inning."