By BOB PUTNAM, JOHN SCHWARB, CHARLES CARDWELL, SCOTT PURKS, Times staff
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 2, 2001
CLEARWATER -- Countryside ace Crystal Crews made a lot of key throws during Tuesday's 2-0 win against River Ridge in the Class 5A regional quarterfinals. However, none was more important than a light overhand toss to third base in the sixth inning that saved the Cougars' season and their No. 1 national ranking. Ahead 1-0 with one out in the sixth, Crews gave up back-to-back singles to Christine Beck and Stefanie Simon. Both were successful on a double steal and gave the Royal Knights their best chance to score.
The following batter, Jill Hrovoski, tried a squeeze bunt and popped up. Crews reacted quickly, extending her glove to catch it and throwing to third for a double play to end the threat and extend the Cougars' scoreless streak to 30 innings.
"The game pretty much came down to that bunt," River Ridge coach Ernie Beck said. "We had a chance, we started hitting her (Crews). We just came up short."
Kattrina Dowd, who singled in the first inning, scored the winning run on a single by Carly Brieske. Dowd also drove in an insurance run in the sixth with a double that scored Brooke Johannessen, who reached on a single. In between, Countryside (32-0) stranded nine runners.
"I told the girls you can forget about the 10-run mercy rule from here on out," Cougars coach Scott Kitchen said. "All games are going to be tight the rest of the way." -- BOB PUTNAM
PALM HARBOR -- With a five-run outburst in the first inning, Palm Harbor University all but ended any doubt as to who would advance to the regional semifinal.
That did not render the rest of the game uninteresting, though.
PHU cruised Tuesday to a 7-1 win over Seminole, advancing to host Sarasota on Thursday. But the buzz of the afternoon centered on two balls that Seminole senior Kelly Foco hit over the fence.
Neither counted as home runs.
In the fourth, Foco hit a bomb to left that cleared the fence, but a three-umpire crew ruled it a ground-rule double, saying the ball rolled under the fence. In the sixth she took PHU pitcher Katie Dobson out again to left-center, but the umpire ruled that she failed to touch home plate.
"To get gypped twice, it's just my luck," Foco said. "The first one, Chuck (Poetter, PHU coach) said it was over, the pitcher said it was over, the leftfielder said it was over. That second time, all I have to say is the plate is the one thing I would be focusing most on."
In the five-run first, Jackie Muskatevc delivered the big blow for PHU (27-4) with a two-run single. -- JOHN SCHWARB
ST. PETERSBURG -- Bradenton Southeast upset No. 8-ranked Northeast 4-3.
Northeast (16-3), playing in its fifth consecutive regional, led 3-2 entering the top of the seventh, but Southeast (9-16) scored twice to take the lead. Southeast's Tamara Brown and Laura Boyles began the two-out rally with back-to-back singles. After Tara Snyder's single loaded the bases, Brown was almost picked off third base. But the umpire said May Alves bobbled the ball and called Brown safe. On the next pitch, Missy King hit a two-run double to give the Seminoles a 4-3 lead.
In the sixth inning, a Southeast error helped the Vikings score twice to go up 3-2. Crystal Folwell opened the inning with a double and scored on Tiffany Nelson's grounder through Snyder's legs. Nelson scored on a double by Tori Bowling. -- CHARLES CARDWELL
TAMPA -- There wasn't one hero, or one goat, after Tampa Bay Tech defeated Clearwater 6-5 in 10 innings in their region quarterfinal.
You want heroes? Take your pick.
Tech's Chrystal Ihm threw the complete game on an injured left foot, striking out 12 while giving up just one earned run.
Then there was Tech catcher Ashley Alpizar, who with two out in the bottom of the ninth stole third and raced home on a Clearwater throwing error to tie it at four. There was also Teaqua Gunn and Stephanie Barnes, two relatively inexperienced players who scored the tying and winning runs.
You want key mistakes? Both teams made their share, but Clearwater made six crucial ones in the final three innings, all by different players.
"We kept giving them four and five outs an inning," Clearwater coach Brian Mont said. "If you give people all those chances it will eventually catch up with you.
"I mean there is a reason they invented the game with three outs."
In the bottom of the 10th, Gunn walked, then scored the tying run on a three-base throwing error over the first baseman's head. The hitter on the play, Barnes, reached third and scored after an infield dribbler was scooped up and thrown over the catcher's head.
Clearwater ends its season 17-11, but with high expectations for next season. The Tornadoes lose only one senior to graduation.
"We've been fighting errors all season," Mont said. "But we have some time to get better and we have a lot of talent that just needs to develop." -- SCOTT PURKS
East Bay made short work of Gibbs, reeling off an 11-0 victory to advance to the region semifinals Thursday. The Indians (25-4) will host Tampa Bay Tech, 6-5 winners over Clearwater, Saturday. -- TIMES STAFF