It’s been an up-and-down baseball season for many programs in North Pinellas in 2014.
Exemplifying that steady undulation has been the standings in Class 7A District 9. At the beginning of the season it was East Lake’s league to win and everyone else’s job to fight for second place. Then Northeast began its surprising early season run of that never stopped and the inconsistencies of others gave the district a completely wide-open look.
This is one of those years where four area teams could emerge from districts to move on or none do and neither scenario would be totally surprising.
Class 7A District 9 (Host: Countryside)
CLEARWATER — Might as well start with the wildest one.
The District 7A-9 field is about as deep as it comes in the region, with five of six teams capable of winning on any given night.
East Lake entered this season essentially as a consensus favorite, but once Northeast beat the Eagles in late February and then again in mid-March, the balance of power shifted.
Northeast continued to prove itself time and time again, finishing atop the league standings with a 9-1 record. East Lake isn’t far behind in second place at 7-3.
The Eagles count on their phenomenal pitching each night, but producing enough offense to win is sometimes a crapshoot.
Coming into the tourney as the No. 4 seed, host Countryside will need to win twice to get into the championship game scheduled for next Friday. The Cougars have had to endure some streaky offense and suspect defense this season, but picked up a confidence-boosting win at Jesuit High last week.
Class 5A District 8 (Host: Fivay)
HUDSON — Perhaps not as talented from top to bottom but every bit as competitive is the District 5A-8 field.
Young Dunedin enters as the No. 5 seed and will need to play its best baseball of the season to survive with a regional berth.
The Falcons open with No. 4 Land O’ Lakes, a team they split with in the regular season. A win there would bring a semifinal date with top-seeded River Ridge. Dunedin lost to the Royal Knights by two runs twice this year so it knows it can compete.
Class 8A District 8 (Host: Highest seed)
Palm Harbor University’s 1-5 league record certainly doesn’t stir up much hope for its chances of reaching the postseason this year.
Benefiting the Hurricanes, though, is the small, four-team District 8A-8 field. PHU only needs one win to qualify for regionals, although that will have to come against the league’s top seed. That game will be at either St. Petersburg or Bradenton Manatee.
Senior pitcher Brian Auerbach will get the ball in that win-or-go-home contest, giving PHU a fighting chance.