SPRING HILL — Top-seeded Pasco provided veteran coach Ricky Giles with a milestone win, not to mention a heart palpitation or two, in Thursday night's Class 4A, District 8 semifinals.
The Pirates (22-5) had to escape a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the seventh to clinch a 5-4 victory against Springstead (16-11), the playoff berth that accompanied it, and Giles' 300th career coaching victory.
Trailing 5-3 with one out, the host Eagles loaded the bases on a walk, infield error and bunt single. They cut their deficit to a run on Tommy Dwyer's force-out grounder at third that scored Ryan Clark, and moved runners to second and third when third baseman Henry Johnson overthrew first trying for a game-ending double play.
Senior right-hander Aaron Brandt (seven IP, six hits, five strikeouts, four walks) then struck out No. 2 hitter Brett Maggard to end the game.
"Sometimes you say, 'I wonder if I can ever get used to something like that,' but I don't think I can," said Giles, whose club faces No. 2-seeded Nature Coast in tonight's district title game at Springstead.
The Eagles took a 3-2 lead in the fifth on Dwyer's two-run home run. But the Pirates rallied in the sixth on Jake Schrader's three-run triple. Schrader finished 3-for-3.
In Thursday's opener, Nature Coast shortstop Brandon Derespiris made arguably the tournament's biggest defensive play with two outs, a Zephyrhills runner on first and his team leading by two in the seventh.
Leaping what seemed like 3 feet off the ground, Derespiris snagged a line drive — and a postseason berth — out of the air, preserving the Sharks' 2-0 win.