DADE CITY — Star athletes get plenty of odd requests from their fans.
A female friend of Pasco star Josh Johnson simply asked him to hit a home run then point at her during Tuesday's region quarterfinal against St. Cloud.
Of course Johnson said he would, and when a fastball jumped off his bat in the second inning he was in great shape, even pointing as promised toward where he thought the girl might be standing in a pocket of fans wearing red and black.
The reality of the three-run shot that sparked Pasco's 8-1 win was a little more realistic then cashing in on his promise during his first at-bat.
Johnson had started the season as the Pirates' lead-off hitter with some success, then he fell into somewhat of a slump, prompting Pirates coach Ricky Giles to move him to the last spot in the batting order. Giles believed Johnson might see more fastballs and reasoned he would become somewhat of a leadoff hitter for the bottom to give the order balance.
"I was too worried about trying to get a hit," Johnson said. "Coach Giles was right that if I just swung the bat I would hit."
Johnson added a double and a run scored in the third when he and Brennan Allen came home for a 6-1 lead after an infield single by lead-off hitter Jorge Jaramillo. Pirates senior Dylan Giella had made it 4-1 in the second when his RBI single brought home Thomas Harris for another Pasco (24-5) run.
The bottom of the Pirates' batting order continued its hot hitting in the fourth when Henry Johnson hit an RBI single to bring in Giella for a 7-1 lead. Dustin Brown scored on a fielder's choice to score the final run on a St. Cloud (21-7) team dogged by its pair of pitchers, who allowed 11 hits and only struck out two.
Pirates ace Aaron Brandt went the distance, throwing 96 pitches for three strikeouts while allowing six hits. He seemed to gain strength as the runs piled on.
"I'm proud of them," Giles said. "They give me everything I ask of them.