ZEPHYRHILLS — The Class 4A-8 tournament, widely projected to be the area's most balanced, suddenly has become its most bizarre — courtesy of the opportunistic Nature Coast offense.
One night after rallying for five seventh-inning runs in a stunning comeback win over host Zephyrhills, the fifth-seeded Sharks enjoyed another spontaneous offensive combustion in Thursday night's five-inning, 16-2 rout of No. 1 Springstead. Nature Coast faces No. 2 Pasco at 7 tonight.
"I didn't so much anticipate us hitting the ball like that, but I expected us to hit the ball and put the ball in play," Sharks first-year coach John Frascatore said. "The kids came out swinging tonight. All the credit goes to them."
Nature Coast (13-7) amassed 14 hits off four Eagles pitchers, chasing starter Patrick Dwyer three batters into the second inning.
Freshman Tommy Tambasco, a JV callup hitting in the No. 8 spot, collected three doubles and three RBIs. Four others had a pair of singles. The bottom three hitters in Nature Coast's order — Justin Tewey, Tambasco and John Russell — went a combined 7-for-9.
"Everything they got they hit, and there was nothing we could do about it," said Eagles coach Frank Vitale, whose 16-10 club's second-half surge propelled it to the No. 1 seed. "
Frightening injury was added to insult in the top of the third, when Eddie Castro's liner directly back to the mound hit Eagles pitcher Bobby Pasarela just under the lower lip. Pasarela was knocked to the ground by the hit, but exited on his own power and sported only a small gash below the lip after the game.
In Thursday's opening game, Pasco (19-7) inflicted all its offensive damage in the first three innings and got a solid 95-pitch effort from junior Brennan Allen in a 9-1 victory over Wiregrass Ranch. Trey Dudley-Giles, Jake Schrader and Jorge Jaramillo — Pasco's No. 2, 3 and 4 hitters, respectively — each collected two RBIs for the Pirates, who led 6-0 after two innings. Pasco scored three more in the third, then was limited to two hits in the final three innings by Bulls reliever Abel Cubero.
Cubero homered for Wiregrass Ranch's lone run. Allen scattered five hits over six innings, striking out six and walking three.