DADE CITY — A universally regarded sports adage says it's difficult to defeat a team of similar talent three times in one season. But a fourth time?
Well, we're still waiting for that adage to be written.
Such is the rarely charted territory in which Nature Coast (21-6) and Pasco (24-5) find themselves tonight, when they stage their fourth meeting of the year in the Class 4A region semifinals.
"I tell you, man, it's going to be tough," Pasco coach Ricky Giles said.
The Pirates won the first three contests by a combined score of 18-3, but the Sharks had the tying run at the plate in the seventh inning in the most recent encounter, a 3-1 Pasco triumph in last week's District 8 title game. Nature Coast coach Bob Shepard said that, had a couple of plays bounced differently, the outcome might have been altered. Giles seemed to agree.
"We know we've got to play," Giles said. "I think with the margin of the score last time, that will give us something (to consider), knowing we have to play for existence."
Although no one can say if the outcome of tonight's game will be different, the complexion could. With a do-or-die scenario facing them, both coaches have suggested they'll have a quicker hook should their starting pitcher struggle and might delve a few arms into their staffs anyway, just to keep the opposition off balance.
"Everybody's kind of on a short leash, so to speak," Shepard said.
Game 1: Pasco 7, Nature Coast 1
When/where: Feb. 28;
Winning pitcher: Dustin Brown (4 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 2 BB, 7 K)
Losing pitcher: Travis Murray (5 IP, 5 R, 4 H, 3 BB, 3 K)
The difference: Pirates No. 9 hitter Josh Johnson smacked two home runs off Murray while Jorge Jaramillo added a two-run blast in a game played in temperatures that crept into the 40s. Brown was relieved by Aaron Brandt after loading the bases with no out in the fifth. Brandt struck out No. 3 hitter Brandon Derespiris and forced Murray into a double play.
Recollections: "It was cold and Travis threw the ball real well that night, but unfortunately he got the ball up in the zone a couple of times. At this level, good teams and good hitters are going to hit mistakes. … I didn't put a lot of stock into that first game; at the same time, it was cold for them, too." — Sharks coach Bob Shepard
Game 2: Pasco 8, Nature Coast 1
When/where: March 25; Pasco
Winning pitcher: Henry Johnson (7 IP, 1 R, 4 H, O BB, 6 K)
Losing pitcher: Travis Murray (3.1 IP, 8 R, 6 H, 3 BB, 0 K)
The difference: Playing the first of four games in as many days, the Pirates got a much-needed complete game from Johnson. Jorge Jaramillo (two doubles, two RBI) and Dylan Giella (2-for-3, three runs) had big nights for Pasco, but the Pirates got no hits from the last four spots in their batting order.
Recollections: "Henry pitched a masterful game that game." — Pirates coach Ricky Giles
Game 3: Pasco 3, Nature Coast 1
When/where: April 25;
Winning pitcher: Dustin Brown (7 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 0 BB, 6 K)
Losing pitcher: Mike Adams
(6 IP, 3 R, 9 H, 1 BB, 7 K)
The difference: Brown, plain and simple. He even aided his own cause offensively with a first-inning RBI. Josh Johnson (solo homer) and Jake Schrader (3-for-3, double, run) provided the remaining support. Eric Adams homered for the Sharks, his second home run in as many games against Pasco.
Recollections: "I believe we gained a lot of confidence, to be honest with you, during the title game. We kept them close; we battled real hard. Outside a couple of little plays, a couple of bounces here or there that opened things up for them, if those things don't happen, it could be a different kind of ball game." — Sharks coach Bob Shepard
When/where: 7; Pasco
Starting pitchers: Pasco — Dustin Brown (8-1); Nature Coast — Joe Silvestri (5-0)
Also on tap
Class A: Hernando Christian at Deltona Trinity Christian, 4 p.m.
Check it out
The Plant-Dunedin matchup at Englebert Complex will air live on Catch 47 at 7:30 p.m., complete with color commentary from Times staff writer John C. Cotey.