DADE CITY — Pitching aside, Pasco coach Ricky Giles thought Tuesday night's jacket-friendly weather in Dade City was far more crisp than his team's performance against Nature Coast.
Defensively, Giles saw a couple of infield miscues and watched the lower part of his batting order — the No. 6-9 spots — fail to get a hit.
"We weren't as sharp as we normally play," Giles said. "We're a little better than what we saw tonight."
From the perspective of a Nature Coast fan, however, flatness might never have looked so formidable.
Embarking on a four-game, four-day stretch, Pasco (12-1, 10-1) got a much-needed complete game from junior right-hander Henry Johnson, and more than enough production from the top of its order, for an 8-1 rout of the Sharks (10-3, 9-3).
With five district games remaining, including one tonight against rival Zephyrhills, the Pirates have a 11/2-game lead over the Bulldogs (11-4, 9-3) and Nature Coast in the Class 4A, District 8 race.
"The season's a long way from being over," Giles said. "You get that (top district) seed, that's all right, but still, it's almost a survival day in and day out."
Survival, of course, hinges on pitching, which the Pirates possess in bulk. Johnson's four-hitter Tuesday allowed Giles to save senior aces Dustin Brown and Aaron Brandt for tonight's game and Thursday's conference showdown at Land O'Lakes.
Subsisting almost exclusively on his fastball and changeup, Johnson (3-0) struck out six and walked none and didn't allow a hit to Nature Coast's No. 1, 2 or 4 hitters. His lone blemish: a first-pitch blast by Eric Adams that hit the yellow top of the rightfield fence and was ruled a home run, prompting a brief argument from Giles.
Complementing Johnson were catcher Jorge Jaramillo, who doubled twice and drove in two runs, and leadoff hitter Dylan Giella (2-for-3, two stolen bases, three runs).
Johnson "knew what he had to do," Giles said. "We told him, 'You've got this game.' … Henry did a great job, did a good job with the pitch count. I can't ask for no more out of him."