LAND O’LAKES — For most of this season, Pasco has been up and down, here and there and pretty much all over the place.
The Pirates won a few games by the mercy rule, and lost a few that way, too, including the district championship.
But Wednesday night, they found some balance. The bats delivered. The pitching was strong. The defense was solid.
The result: an 8-3 win over Land O’Lakes in a Class 5A region quarterfinal.
Malik Johns pitched a complete-game six-hitter and everyone reached base at least once as the Pirates (17-10) jumped out to an 8-0 lead after four innings.
“If we get up 1-0 I get energized, and the more runs we get up the more energized I get,” said Johns, who threw 127 pitches, the last of which was his game-ending eighth strikeout.
Pasco energized Johns early and often.
A.J. Rainaldi hit a sacrifice fly in the first inning to score a run, and in the third clobbered a home run to also score Lane Stancil to make to 4-0. It was Rainaldi’s fourth homer of the season, all in the last six games.
“I had a rough beginning of the season, but I’m finally getting out of it, said Rainaldi, who hit .459 last year, but was hitting just .292 on April 1.
Since, he is 14-for-28 and has raised his average to .376.
“It feels good,” Rainaldi said. “I’m starting to get back, get a few home runs under my belt. And this is the time of the year that it matters.”
Stancil continued his torrid hitting since returning April 10 from a knee injury with a two-run double, and Robbie Hanlon, Phillip Wilson and Turner Imhoff each had two hits.
It was more than enough for Johns, who stranded seven runners but was rarely in trouble.
“The main thing we went over before the game was to throw a lot of strikes and let the infielders make the plays,” said Johns, who got eight groundball outs.
Alex Reynolds singled, drove in a run and scored for the Gators (18-9), who entered on a six-game winning streak.
Pasco will travel to Sunlake for the region semifinal Tuesday. The teams split a pair of regular-season games.