BROOKSVILLE — Even though Pasco was matching up with a difficult Central squad on the road and positioned against ace Trevor McKenna, Pirates coach Patrick Fortunato felt confident enough in freshman starter Corey Mills to put him on the mound.
That faith paid off as Mills outdueled McKenna in a 6-2 victory Tuesday night.
The freshman was armed with a lead before he even threw his first pitch as Pasco (4-1) put up a run in the top of the first. Leadoff batter Robbie Hanlon laced a single to leftfield and was moved into scoring position on a sacrifice from Malik Johns. After Turner Imhoff reached on an error, a single from Tyree Austin brought in Hanlon.
“Scoring right away definitely keeps our spirits up,” Fortunato said. “It makes a difference especially when you’re able to do it against a tough pitcher like McKenna.”
McKenna (three innings, one walk, five strikeouts, six hits, four earned runs) got out of a bases-loaded jam with back-to-back strikeouts, but five errors in the first three frames put the Central ace behind the eight ball. When he left the game after the third, his Bears (5-3) were down 6-0.
That was all Mills (five innings, two strikeouts, three hits, two earned runs) would need. Despite walking seven batters, he stayed calm and worked through trouble on more than one occasion.
Hanlon and Brian Johnson provided the offensive support, each going 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored.
“When I’m down in the count, I try to take a deep breath and walk off the mound,” Mills said. “It helps me to calm down and just throw strikes.”
Johnson also relieved Mills in the sixth and tossed the final two scoreless innings with two strikeouts.