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Cougars crush curves to rout Pats

Countryside scores seven runs in the third inning, including back-to-back homers, to crush Pinellas Park 11-1.


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 10, 2001

CLEARWATER -- Through the season's first month, the book on Countryside hitters was clear: Get ahead in the count then finish them off with breaking balls.

It might be time for opponents to revise that book.

With the help of a new practice aid, the Cougars broke out of their recent offensive doldrums in a big way Friday night, beating Pinellas Park 11-1 in five innings. The killer blows in a seven-run third inning were back-to-back home runs off curveballs.

"We've been having problems with breaking balls all season long," Countryside coach Steve Shartz said.

"(Pitchers) get ahead and throw breaking balls. And they were just eating us up."

All of that changed with Kevin Richmond. Countryside already had scored three runs in the third to take a 6-1 lead, but the shortstop put a charge into the damp air with a three-run blast to right off a 1-2 curveball.

"It just landed," joked Richmond of his first home run this season. "When I saw the curveball, it was right there."

Richmond and Shartz credited a new curveball-throwing machine used for the first time Friday in batting practice called the "Hitting Streak."

The Cougars had a little streak of their own in the big inning, as Chris Gajan followed Richmond with a solo home run, again off a curveball while behind in the count. The 0-2 shot to leftfield put Countryside up 10-1.

The outburst was more than enough for Cougars pitcher Matt Diblasi (2-2), who gave up just one hit and one run while efficiently retiring Pinellas Park (3-7 overall, 1-4 Class 5A, District 10).

Diblasi got some flashy defensive help with one on and one out in the fourth inning, when first baseman Mike White stabbed a low line drive from Justin Marlow and crawled back to the base to double up Trevor Bacon.

Cody Gelwick (1-2) took the loss for Pinellas Park, giving up both home runs and nine runs in all.

Countryside (5-6, 2-2) went up 3-0 in the second without a base hit. White reached on an error and stole second. And walks to Diblasi and Greg Buckles loaded the bases.

Cody Clay then hit a line drive to centerfield that Randy Bowman misjudged, and it tipped off the top of his glove and rolled to the wall, clearing the bases.

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