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County's best could meet again very soon


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 6, 2001

A Countryside-Palm Harbor University rematch might not wait until the post-season.

It could come this weekend. The Cougars and Hurricanes, ranked No. 1 and No. 7 in Class 5A, headline this weekend's Dunedin Invitational. Fifteen teams are scheduled to compete in the tournament.

Pinellas County is well-represented with a dozen teams, but Countryside and PHU already have beaten most of them this season. St. Petersburg Catholic and Sarasota are intriguing entries who have yet to face the north county powers (including Clearwater and Seminole, who also are competing), and a team from Ohio also will be in the mix.

At 4 p.m. on Saturday, however, it would be an upset if Crystal Crews and Katie Dobson didn't reprise their classic performances of March 22, when Crews and Countryside beat PHU 1-0 in 12 innings.

PHU will not be at full strength. Coach Chuck Poetter said he plans to start a few reserves in preparation for a key Class 5A, District 9 game Tuesday at River Ridge. The game is a makeup of an earlier rainout and conflicts with a few starters' spring break plans (Poetter refused to say which starters).

Nonetheless, there is little question PHU would relish a chance to give Countryside its first loss. Should the Cougars win their first three games in the tournament, they would be 25-0.

"It's a great game. They're both as even as you're going to get," Poetter said.

Tournament director Michael McCarthy said coaches from Florida State, Florida, Central Florida and several junior colleges will attend.

DONE ... FOR NOW: Four teams from south county will play at the Dunedin Invitational, but Northeast is not one of them. Too bad.

With a 4-2 win over Boca Ciega on Thursday, the Vikings ended their regular season. And what a season it was. Following an 11-3 loss to Countryside in the opener Feb. 21, Northeast won 14 consecutive games, including sweeping the Pinellas County Athletic Conference South and Class 4A, District 11.

This week has been particularly impressive with three wins in four days. Northeast no-hit Largo in five innings Monday, winning 20-0 behind a 14-hit attack and flawless defense. Crystal Folwell struck out just one Packer, but the Vikings defense swallowed up everything else. Were it not for a two-out walk in the fifth, Folwell would have had a perfect game.

"I'm really proud of them," said coach Sheryl Hollen, enjoying her most successful season in eight years at Northeast. "They're hustling, doing everything they can do."

Which begs the question: How would Northeast do against the likes of Countryside now?

The answer will be revealed April 20, when Northeast and Countryside play for the PCAC title.

"I would think that we would for sure be competitive," Hollen said.

GOING DEEP: Northside Christian's Amy McGathey hit home runs in back-to-back games, both over the centerfield fence at Keswick Christian (March 22) and Shorecrest (Monday). McGathey, a sophomore pitcher/shortstop, leads the Mustangs in hits, RBI and average.

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