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Countryside carries success into summer

Three players have gotten a chance to pitch, and they have been the keys to a 7-1 start.


© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 30, 2001

One of the hottest teams in Pinellas County at the end of the high school season was Countryside.

Not coincidentally, one of the hottest teams so far in American Legion B has been Countryside.

Countryside ended the high school season going 16-7, including reaching the Class 5A, Region 3 final. The Legion team, with many of the same players, has continued the hot streak, getting off to a 7-1 start.

Despite losing its top two pitchers, left-handers Mike White (Devil Rays draftee) and Steve Boychuk (Saint Leo signee), coach Dennis Braun's team hasn't missed a beat.

Filling the vacuum this summer have been a trio of right-handed rising juniors: Kevin Barrett, James Hinkle and Justin Samson.

"Barrett's got the best fastball; Hinkle the best curve. And Samson has the best mix -- fastball, curve, change. Plus, he's the best at throwing strikes, staying ahead," Braun said. "They all bring something to the table.

"They didn't get to pitch a lot for us during the (high school) year, but they're doing well now."

Countryside also is doing well at the plate. Third baseman Chris Gajan, first baseman Matt DiBlasi and shortstop Kellen Perket, all rising seniors, are batting over .400.

DiBlasi, a left-hander who also pitches, and Gajan had solid high school seasons. Gajan, who stroked a home run off Seminole's first-team all-county pitcher, T.J. Large, in the region final, has four home runs this summer.

"His power surge is coming on," Braun said.

Perket, who transferred from Tarpon Springs during the spring, is the leading candidate to replace Kevin Richmond, Countryside's graduated all-county shortstop. Rising junior Geoff Rottmayer, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound outfielder, also is hitting well.

"He's really starting to come on. He has a couple of clutch home runs that have won games," Braun said. "He has a lot of ability."

With just five players graduating from the high school team this spring, the future looks bright for Countryside.

"We finished up the year real strong with, in essence, a young team," Braun said.

"These kids have experience and are getting better."

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