BROOKSVILLE — Hernando has heard it all this season. It is supposed to be an "All-Star" team, but chemistry doesn't appear out of nowhere. It takes time.
When Land O'Lakes met the Leopards and upset them more than a month ago, that chemistry was just starting to form. Tuesday night, Hernando won the rematch 19-9 and the Gators found out the Leopards are meshing as a unit.
Hernando (17-4), which went into the bottom of the fourth inning trailing 9-5, scored 14 unanswered runs, including home runs from Matt Brady, Ian Townsend and Brett Maggard.
Land O'Lakes (15-5) edged its rival 8-7 in early March, and on Tuesday a young Gator lineup brought out the big bats against Leopard starter J.T. Simpson.
"We tried to turn J.T. around on three days' rest," Hernando coach Tim Sims said. "He got two strikes on a lot of guys but couldn't put them away."
In the top of the third, Trae Urban and Gino Pepenella each hit homers for the visiting Gators, putting them up 5-1. Staked to that lead, Land O'Lakes starter Steven Rosario (three innings, six walks, two hit batters, six earned runs) couldn't hold it. He gave up the big hit, a grand slam by Cody Gillis in the third, to tie it at 5.
The slugfest went back and forth as the teams combined for seven home runs.
Sims also called on Gillis (two strikeouts, two walks, one hit) in relief and he pitched two shutout innings to get the win.
"Tonight was a good sign for us," Sims said. "We need to be able to play that way down the stretch."