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Area powers to face off in rematch

Countryside and Chamberlain meet a year after the Cougars eliminated the Chiefs.

By JOHN SCHWARB

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 3, 2001


If Countryside lives until next week, opponents will know the team by its impressive resume, full of No. 1 rankings and high praise, and jump at the chance at knocking it off of its pedestal.

Chamberlain needs no extra incentive.

To the Chiefs, Countryside might be 32-0, No. 1 in Class 5A and the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll. But none of that matters tonight.

Countryside beat Chamberlain 6-2 in Tampa last year in the region semifinals. That would appear to be motivation enough.

"Oh, they want us bad, I'm sure," Countryside shortstop Kattrina Dowd said. "Since we beat them at their house last year, they're going to be looking for some revenge."

Chamberlain coach Bob Diez, however, downplayed the revenge factor.

"Hey, we're in the regional semifinal, and that's all that matters," he said. "Of course, we know we're going against the No. 1-ranked team in the country. But just because they're No. 1 doesn't make the challenge any greater.

"We know what we have to do, and we feel we're ready for the challenge."

After losing 10-1 to Plant in the district final, Diez said his team "woke up," and might have gotten better from the beating.

"We were in a little lull there in the district," he said. "But we bounced right back and (beat defending state champion Riverview in Tuesday's regional opener) 3-2 in 10 innings at their place. That was huge for us."

And now this. A matchup of giants.

Chamberlain comes in at 28-2-1, No. 7 in 5A and No. 8 nationally (though that likely will drop with the Chiefs' district loss).

"It's great," Countryside pitcher Crystal Crews said. "I'd rather have Chamberlain than anyone else except (cross-town rival) Palm Harbor U."

Both teams bring top-level pitchers to the field, Crews (22-0) for Countryside and Amanda Cody (14-1) for Chamberlain. Strong hitters loom at every spot in the lineup, starting with a pair of county hitting leaders in Dowd (.635) and, again, Cody (.520).

The game has the makings of a long, drawn out defensive struggle, not unlike Countryside's 12- and 13-inning regular-season battles with Palm Harbor U. and Chamberlain's 10-inning win over Riverview.

"It's going to be a game of who's up, who's on their toes and who sees what and when," Crews said.

- Times staff writer Scott Purks contributed to this report.

Tonight's region softball games

All games at 7:30 unless noted.

CLASS 6A, REGION 2: Boone (23-6) at Sickles (20-4), 4

THE SKINNY: The Gryphons are trying to reach the final for the third time in four years. Sickles lost in the final last season, but it returns starting pitcher Julie Henneke (13-4, 0.36 ERA, 136 strikeouts in 115 innings; .481 batting average).

CLASS 5A, REGION 3: Chamberlain (28-2-1) at Countryside (32-0), 4, at Bomber Stadium, Clearwater

THE SKINNY: This is the game of the day. Countryside is ranked No. 1 in the nation, the state and in the Times Tampa Bay Top 10. Chamberlain is ranked No. 2 in the Tampa Bay Top 10 and appears to have the guns to take down the Cougars.

CLASS 5A, REGION 2: Deltona (15-10) at Plant City (16-5)

THE SKINNY: Miranda Gunn is the Raiders' big ... well, gun. Gunn is hitting .433 and is 10-3 with a 0.50 ERA. Raiders Amber Kirby and Hayley Mallory are hitting over .440.

CLASS 4A, REGION 3: Tampa Bay Tech (17-5) at East Bay (25-4)

THE SKINNY: East Bay's Mandy Schuerman is 18-3 with a 0.40 ERA and 249 strikeouts in 134 innings. Schuerman, who has signed with Florida, also is hitting .500, third in the county. TBT's Chrystal Ihm is 14-5 with a 0.33 ERA, second in the county. East Bay defeated TBT 3-1 in eight innings in the region semifinals last season.

CLASS 3A, REGION 3: Tampa Catholic (16-12) at Palmetto (18-9), at Blackstone Park Academy of Holy Names (19-8), at Cardinal Mooney (16-12), at Miss Sarasota Softball Complex

THE SKINNY: TC and AHN are favored to win and meet for the fourth time this season in Saturday's region final. Academy defeated TC in the district final. Nicole Russell led Academy this season with a .460 average. TC's Maura Brosnan is 8-3 with a 0.56 ERA.

CLASS 2A, REGION 3: Berkeley Prep (22-10) at Lake Highland Prep (22-8), 4, at Lake Fairview

THE SKINNY: Berkeley Prep has overcome numerous injuries and roster changes to become one of the county's favorites to reach the final four. The Bucs' toughest playoff test might be tonight.

CLASS A, REGION 3: Seminole Pres. (15-6) at Sarasota Out-of-Door (10-8)

THE SKINNY: The Lancers are expected to win and move on to the region final against the Community School of Naples, their playoff nemesis for many, many years. The Lancers' Kristy Korman (.500 average, 0.26 ERA) just might lead Seminole back to the final four.

-- Compiled by Scott Purks and Frank Pastor.

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