LAND O'LAKES — For most of this season, Pasco has been up and down, here and there and pretty much all over the place.
The Pirates won a few games by the mercy rule, and lost a few that way, too, including the district championship.
But Wednesday night, they found some balance. The bats delivered. The pitching was strong. The defense was solid.
The result: an 8-3 win over Land O'Lakes in a Class 5A region quarterfinal.
Malik Johns pitched a complete-game six-hitter and everyone reached base at least once as the Pirates (17-10) jumped out to an 8-0 lead after four innings.
"If we get up 1-0 I get energized, and the more runs we get up the more energized I get," said Johns, who threw 127 pitches, the last of which was his game-ending eighth strikeout.
Pasco energized Johns early and often.
A.J. Rainaldi hit a sacrifice fly in the first inning to score a run, and in the third clobbered a home run to also score Lane Stancil to make to 4-0. It was Rainaldi's fourth homer of the season, all in the last six games.
"I had a rough beginning of the season, but I'm finally getting out of it, said Rainaldi, who hit .459 last year, but was hitting just .292 on April 1.
Since, he is 14-for-28 and has raised his average to .376.
"It feels good," Rainaldi said. "I'm starting to get back, get a few home runs under my belt. And this is the time of the year that it matters."
Stancil continued his torrid hitting since returning April 10 from a knee injury with a two-run double, and Robbie Hanlon, Phillip Wilson and Turner Imhoff each had two hits.
It was more than enough for Johns, who stranded seven runners but was rarely in trouble.
"The main thing we went over before the game was to throw a lot of strikes and let the infielders make the plays," said Johns, who got eight groundball outs.
Alex Reynolds singled, drove in a run and scored for the Gators (18-9), who entered on a six-game winning streak.
Pasco will travel to Sunlake for the region semifinal Tuesday. The teams split a pair of regular-season games.
5A: Sunlake nips Hernando
BROOKSVILLE — It took seven seasons for Sunlake to break through and qualify for the state playoffs. Once there, the Seahawks showed they belonged.
Thanks to a dominant performance on the mound and a few fielding miscues by Hernando, Sunlake left Emerson Field with a 2-1 victory in a Class 5A region quarterfinal Wednesday.
"I thought we had a chance if we played hard," Sunlake coach Dick Rohrberg said. "We have some decent pitching and good defense behind it. These kids deserve it."
The Seahawks (18-9) struggled against Hernando ace Kyle Kilbourne. But they scratched out two unearned runs in the second thanks to three errors. Hernando (23-5) finished with four errors.
Kilbourne (complete game, three hits, 10 strikeouts, one walk) was outdueled by David Castillo. The southpaw struck out 11 and had a no-hitter entering the seventh. A couple of hits chased him, but Ryan Talburt shut down Hernando for his first save of the season.
"(Kilbourne) motivated and made me work harder because you have to keep fighting," Castillo said. "I came in ready with a good mind-set. I wanted to attack their lineup, and it seemed to work."
Sunlake had only three hits, all by second baseman Omar Cala. Entering with a team-leading .378 batting average, Cala went 3-for-3 and scored the Seahawks' first run.
After beating out an infield hit, Cala went to second when Zac Scranton reached on an error. Alex Anderson reached on another error with one out to load the bases. Talburt grounded into a fielder's choice to score Cala, and Scranton scored on an errant throw to first.
The 2-0 lead proved insurmountable with Castillo on the mound. The senior threw 120 pitches, walking only three.
"You just have to tip your cap to (Sunlake)," Hernando coach Tim Sims said. "Castillo and Kilbourne both pitched great games."
5A: Jesuit moves on
TAMPA — Kasey Radke picked up the victory and Michael Sandborn shut the door as Jesuit defeated visiting Boca Ciega 3-2.
It was the sixth consecutive season Jesuit has at least reached the region (21-7) quarterfinals.
Radke (7-1) cruised through much of the night. The senior southpaw scattered three hits through 5 1/3 innings, striking out four and walking a pair before giving way to Sandborn, who picked up his first save of the season.
Correspondents Derek J. LaRiviere and Brandon Wright contributed to this report.