Who ultimately survives next week’s district softball tournaments is anyone’s guess at this point.
In terms of North Pinellas, four programs can make legitimate cases for their playoff worth and all four just might see those fates come to fruition.
The paths leading to the postseason, though, remain pocked with uncertainties.
Boasting the strongest resumes heading toward districts are Countryside, Dunedin and Palm Harbor University. East Lake finds itself on the fringe, hoping that its roller-coaster season is on an uphill climb at the right time. Tarpon Springs appears to be a nonfactor, but has played in a number of tight games with quality opposition.
Class 7A District 9 (Host: Pinellas Park)
Countryside is playing its best softball at the perfect time.
Other than an error-filled, late-February stint of three losses in four games, the Cougars (18-6, 8-2) have largely controlled their league.
That said, Northeast, East Lake and Seminole have proven themselves at times, and all it takes is one slip-up at this juncture.
Countryside’s two league losses this year came against East Lake and Northeast, and Pinellas Park gave the Cougars a scare in February.
Class 5A District 8 (Host: River Ridge)
This league is just as deep or deeper than District 7A-9.
Dunedin’s emergence as a softball power broker continues and the Falcons will enter this competitive, eight-team bracket seeded first.
Lurking close behind, though, are Gulf High and tournament-host River Ridge. But depending on the bracket set-up, Dunedin’s ability to grab first place may be huge. Gulf and River Ridge could very well end up battling it out in a semifinal, leaving the Falcons to deal with a less-challenging, but still somewhat dangerous matchup against Fivay or Land O’ Lakes.
Class 8A District 8 (Host: Highest Seed)
PHU has elevated itself in statewide polls, reaching the No. 9 slot in Miracle Sports’ Class 8A rankings.
All the outside accolades won’t mean much if the second-seeded ‘Canes can’t take care league No. 3 Bradenton Manatee at home Tuesday.
PHU (16-5, 4-2) beat Manatee 11-6 at home this year but somehow lost 10-5 on the road a month ago. Manatee owns a woeful overall record and has been outscored by over 70 total runs.
Barring an unlikely setback, the Hurricanes should be in next Friday’s title game at top-seeded Sarasota Riverview and on their way to a 16th postseason trip in the past 17 years.