PINELLAS PARK — Countryside passed its first big test of the season Tuesday night.
Thanks in large part to senior Christian Townsend's complete-game gem, the Cougars held on for a 2-0 win at Pinellas Park in what was both team's Class 7A District 9 opener.
“We relied mostly on our pitching and defense,” Townsend said after his three-hit, nine-strikeout effort. “That's basically what we're going to do all year long. We were just hoping the bats would come through and they did.”
Making his first start of the season, Townsend faced the minimum 18 batters through six innings before needing to navigate through a jam in the seventh. Pinellas Park's Triston Allen led off with a double into the left-center field gap and Zach Roberts drew a one-out walk that put runners at the corners, but Townsend ended the threat with an infield pop-up and his ninth strikeout.
“I felt that I was in control and I trusted my catcher,” Townsend said. “That was probably the biggest thing. When you have a catcher behind the plate that you know will block balls it's a nice feeling."
Countryside catcher Zach Taylor helped out with his arm, as well. The seventh was the only inning Pinellas Park advanced one of its four total baserunners past first. Taylor threw out the Patriots' first baserunner attempting to steal second in the second and picked its second baserunner off at first in the fifth.
Townsend didn't limit his contributions to the mound, either. He helped C-Side plate its first run in the fourth by ripping a one-out double down the third-base line. Pinch runner Steven Wilson advanced to third on a passed ball and then scored when Mike Adams slapped a two-strike RBI single into shallow right field.
“You've got to put the ball in play against [Pinellas Park starter Brandon Grigsby] and that's what we preach,” said Countryside coach Kemo O'Sullivan. “Mike Adams put the ball in play and that's the winning run.”
Grigsby nearly matched Townsend's stellar performance Tuesday. The senior went the distance, struck out eight and surrendered five hits and two walks.
That first run in the fifth, though, provided the breathing room that helped Townsend stay focused and pitch with confidence the rest of the way.
“That really settled me down,” he said. “Pitching 0-0 is like you're pitching a new game every inning, but when you're pitching 1-0 you know you have the lead, the other team's pressured and you're in control of the game.”
Countryside added an unearned insurance run in the top of the seventh when Charlie Skantze's bases-loaded, slow roller to short couldn't be fielded cleanly. The run plated Wilson again, this time pinch running for first baseman Brian Brown. Brown started the rally by drawing a two-out walk. Nine-hole hitter Jack Skantze, who ripped a third-inning double earlier, was intentionally walked after Wilson stole second and leadoff man Kevin Rosinski loaded the bases with an infield single.
Countryside (5-0, 1-0) stays in District 7A-9 play Friday night when it hosts Northeast.
Pinellas Park (4-3, 0-1) will try to bounce back tomorrow night at home against Bishop McLaughlin. The Patriots travel to district rival Seminole on Friday night.
WP – Christian Townsend (3-0)
LP – Brandon Grigsby (2-2)
Christian Townsend – W, 7.0 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 9 K, 1 BB – 1-for-2, 1 2B, 1 IBB
Mike Adams – 1-for-3, 1 RBI
Zach Taylor – 0-for-3, Sac Bunt – Defensive Catching: 1 CS, 1 Pickoff
Brandon Grigsby – L, 7.0 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 5 H, 8 K, 2 BB, 2 IBB – 1-for-3
Triston Allen – 1-for-3, 1 2B