PALATKA — The Azalea Bowl concession stand and Pasco's pitching staff eerily paralleled each other Friday. By night's end, the burgers, dogs, sausage and grilled onions, cobblers and even scallops — yes, scallops — were essentially gone.
Similarly, the smorgasbord of Pirates arms, offering everything from high heat to the very raw, was nearly tapped out as well.
After beating Palatka 6-2 in Game 1 of this best-of-three Class 4A region final, the Pirates (26-6) met disaster in the nightcap, allowing eight runs in the first inning of Game 2 en route to a 10-5 defeat.
Now, the teams convene at 1 p.m. today in this quirky, antiquated park — where the warning track is on a steep incline — in a winner-take-all Game 3. One problem: Pasco's deep staff, which figured to be rewarded in this format, now seems exposed.
Senior Aaron Brandt worked 41/3 innings in Game 1, and junior Henry Johnson totaled 52/3 innings, working parts of both games. That leaves struggling senior Dustin Brown to start today.
Officially, Brown (8-2) has lasted one total inning his past two starts. In the region semifinals against Nature Coast, he exited with a 3-0 deficit after allowing a single and double to lead off the second.
He was pulled after allowing two walks, a single, double and fielder's choice in the first inning of Game 2 on Friday.
By game's end, coach Ricky Giles had used six pitchers, with Johnson (31/3) eating the most innings.
"(Brown) is okay, but he's just got to relax and come at it," Giles said. "Aaron's got a little bit, and then we do have some young guys that can come in and throw. I mean, we're in good shape pitching-wise."
Hitting-wise, they seem in far better condition.
The Pirates totaled 17 hits on the day, collecting 10 in the nightcap off Palatka junior Brandon Lee, who went the distance. Jake Schrader (4-for-7, home run, four RBIs) and Dylan Giella (4-for-8, two RBIs) led the Pirates offense.
Pasco broke open Game 1 in the sixth, collecting five runs off three hits and chasing Panthers junkball specialist Charlie Overturf. Schrader's two-run single was the key hit of the inning, which featured bases-loaded walks drawn by Josh Johnson and Jorge Jaramillo.
"I tell you what, (Overturf) kind of scared me a little," said Giles, who watched the Panthers left-hander allow only two hits through the first four innings. "When it got late in the game, I think he got a little tired and the ball got down, and it enabled us to get a couple guys on."
Palatka (23-9) starts junior right-hander Andy McClain (3-3) today. Lee's complete game afforded the Panthers the luxury of preserving their No. 3 pitcher until today.
"In a game like that, you need somebody that can eat up innings," Palatka coach Matt McCool said. "We don't normally let them throw that many pitches. He threw 114 or something like that. That's against what I would do, but sometimes you've got to make exceptions to the rule."