DADE CITY — Down by three runs early in the season's biggest game Friday night, fifth-ranked Pasco suddenly found itself in dire need of an adrenaline surge.
It got glucose instead.
Behind a pitcher nicknamed "Sugarman" and a leadoff hitter whose pregame snack includes two chocolate doughnuts and a sweet tea, the Pirates rallied. Then they rolled.
By night's end, Pasco had collected 13 hits — four by junior Jorge Jaramillo — and dispatched of district rival Nature Coast 12-3 in the Class 4A region semifinals.
"Everybody's hitting the ball great," said Jaramillo, who drove in half of the Pirates' runs from the leadoff spot, three of them on a double that tied the score in the second inning. "We've just got to keep it up, keep up the fire."
They'll have to take their flammability on the road. Pasco (25-5), unbeaten in four games against Nature Coast this season, goes to Palatka for a best-of-three series Friday and May 10, with the winner earning a state tournament berth.
The reason many locals think this Pirates club can go all the way isn't necessarily because its path to a title is bereft of longtime playoff nemesis Orlando Bishop Moore. It's because its batting order is bereft of holes.
Five Pirates had multihit games, led by Jaramillo, Dylan Giella (2-for-4, double, solo home run) and Henry Johnson (3-for-3, one run, one RBI).
"You can afford to give up two or three runs," Johnson said, "and we know we have the bats to come back and still beat people."
Johnson, a right-handed junior nicknamed "Sugarman" by an aunt when he was a toddler, helped bolster that claim when he was summoned to relieve starter Dustin Brown, who allowed three Nature Coast runs on four hits before being pulled with no out and two runners on in the second.
"He was a little off, to be straight about it," Pirates coach Ricky Giles said. "He just wasn't on."
But Johnson (7-0) was, allowing three hits the rest of the game and retiring 11 straight at one point. Jaramillo provided his classmate with a cushion, following his three-run, tying double in the second with a two-run single in the third.
Jaramillo's second hit essentially chased Sharks senior right-hander Joe Silvestri, who took the mound only hours after discovering his Brooksville home had been robbed Friday, with several personal belongings stolen.
"We had a lot of confidence," Sharks coach Bob Shepard said. "We came out to play. We stayed positive. The kids came to battle tonight, but unfortunately (the Pirates) were hot."