PALM HARBOR — Two of Pinellas County's top teams slugged and slogged their way through a high-scoring affair Tuesday afternoon in Palm Harbor.
Nearby rivals Countryside and Palm Harbor University traded leads and combined for 19 runs, 28 hits and eight errors during the Hurricanes' 10-9 win.
“That was a wild and woolly one, wasn't it?” PHU coach Kerry Katchuk said afterward. “We played very poorly in the field, which is something we can't do, but offensively we did a lot of good things.”
Those positives at the plate included three-hit days from Kelsy Levee, Logyn Lilley and Rachel Taylor. The trio drove in half of PHU's 10 runs and Lilley led off the fourth with a bomb to center.
The junior's solo shot put PHU ahead 7-4, knocked out Countryside starter Alyssa Queen and appeared to give the 'Canes full control.
But the Cougars, after opening Tuesday with a three-run first, answered with another three-spot in the fifth to tie the game at 7-7. Pinch hitter Emily Hollenbeck came through with a two-run base hit to shallow right during the frame.
Just as PHU immediately responded to C-Side's first inning with four runs of its own, the 'Canes stormed back with three more in the home half of the fifth to go back up 10-7. Cougars relief pitcher Samantha Ramasanto nearly got out of a huge bases loaded jam unscathed, but Taylor shot a two-out, two-strike single through the pitcher's legs into centerfield that plated the inning's first two runs.
“That last at bat I was just trying to hit it down and hard and it worked to my advantage,” said Taylor, PHU's starting pitcher.
The Hurricanes (5-0) picked up one more unearned insurance run in the fifth that proved invaluable. Lilley, who relieved Taylor after four innings, needed all three.
After Brooke Sharpe made it 10-8 with an RBI groundout to second, leftfielder Sommer Pollard swatted a solo shot to right that narrowed the Cougars' deficit to one. Leadoff hitter Samantha Sharpe reached first on an error but Lilley got Brittany Creamer to ground out to third to end it.
“They fought hard to come back so I'm proud of them for that,” C-Side coach Kaylyn Bayly said. “But we've got some work to do hitting and defensively. And just the communication, because that killed us today.”
One of those communication lapses in the outfield resulted in a brief scary moment when Pollard slammed into Samantha Sharpe, the centerfielder, while both were going for a fly ball. Despite some bumps and bruises, Pollard stayed in the game and later came through with the opposite-field home run.
Pollard reached base in all four plate appearances, stole two bases and scored two runs. Makensie Griffin and Samantha Sharpe both had two-hit days for Countryside (4-1).
Neither coach walked off the diamond particularly impressed with Tuesday's effort. Katchuk said the frequency of fielding miscues needs to start dropping soon.
“We played horribly defensively and that's just not our game,” he said. “We haven't shown great defense this year. We're averaging two or three errors a game and it's going to come back to get us later on, but right now we're swinging the bats well enough.”
PHU hitters are certainly getting their money's worth at the plate so far this year. Tuesday was the fourth time in five games overall the 'Canes have scored at least 10 runs.
The loss was Countryside's first of the season and many of Bayly's postgame thoughts echoed Katchuk's about what needs improving.
“We had more errors in this game than we've had all season, so that's uncharacteristic of us; but it happens,” she said. “It's disappointing because I know we're a better team than how we played today.”
Tuesday's game was the first of five-straight home dates for PHU through March 4. The 'Canes host Bradenton Manatee for their first Class 8A District 8 contest of the year Friday afternoon at 4.
C-Side will try to rebound Friday night at 7 p.m. at District 7A-9 foe Northeast. The Cougars are already 2-0 in their six-team league.
CS - 310 030 2 --- 9-11-4
PHU - 402 130 x --- 10-17-4
LP – Samantha Ramasanto (0-1)
Sommer Pollard – 2-for-2, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 SB, 1 BB, 1 HBP
Makensie Briffin – 2-for-4, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 2B
Samantha Ramasanto – Loss, 3.0 IP, 3 R, 2 ER, 5 H, 0 K, 0 BB
Palm Harbor University (5-0)
Logyn Lilley – 3-for-4, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 HR – Win, 3.0 IP, 5 R, 2 ER, 5 H, 0 K, 1 BB
Rachel Taylor – 3-for-4, 2 RBI, 1 2B – ND, 4.0 IP, 4 R, 3 ER, 6 H, 1 K, 1 BB, 1 HBP
Kelsy Levee – 3-for-4, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 SB