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Pasco-Land O'Lakes game will serve up answers

Pasco ace Dustin Brown, above, leads his 13-1 Pirates against a 12-1 Land O’Lakes squad and left-hander Trey Dahl tonight.

LANCE ARAM ROTHSTEIN | Times (2007)

Pasco ace Dustin Brown, above, leads his 13-1 Pirates against a 12-1 Land O’Lakes squad and left-hander Trey Dahl tonight.

DADE CITY — Ricky Giles is in a familiar spot, his large frame rocking back on a plastic chair that looks ready to crumple at any second.

He is watching his baseball team rake the field, round up the bases, tend to the pitching mound.

It's a good group.

Maybe a great one.

Is it a final four team, like his 1997 team? Is it a team that will flame out in the regional finals, like last year?

Or is it somewhere in between, Giles' eighth consecutive playoff team but nothing more?

"We'll know soon,'' he said.

He may know tonight, when Pasco ventures into Land O'Lakes to decide the Sunshine Athletic Conference championship, or better yet — Pasco County's Best Team.

It will be the Pirates' fourth tough game in the last week. They have already walloped Springstead and Nature Coast. Wednesday night, they defeated rival Zephyrhills 3-1.

They have a remarkably deep pitching staff, have filled last year's holes and ultimately, may be the best team Giles has had.

Without question, they are Pasco County's best.

Tonight, the Pirates play the only other team in the county allowed into the debate.

They'll face tricky lefty Trey Dahl, who if such things we're chosen today would be a pretty good bet for Player of the Year.

The Pirates will counter with Dustin Brown, who if such things we're chosen today would be a pretty good bet for Player of the Year.

What isn't on the line in this rematch?

When these teams met last year, the Gator ace was Matt Smith, but it was Dahl who took on Brown.

It was Dahl's first start as a high schooler. He left trailing 3-0 in a game that ended 10-0 in five innings.

He hasn't lost a start since. One year later, he is a budding star.

"I haven't talked to him about it, but it's something he's definitely up for,'' said Land O'Lakes coach Calvin Baisley.

While the Pirates prepared the field for Zephyrhills on Wednesday afternoon, Baisley ran his sizzling Gators through their last practice before the big game.

He has one of the county's best pitching staffs, a defense that has been stalwart and has just enough hitting to come into tonight's contest winners of 12 straight.

Like Giles, he's not sure how good his team will turn out.

"I'll tell you after tomorrow night,'' he says, echoing Giles' sentiments.

There's a lot of different ways to determine just how big a game is. This one has just about all of them.

The hottest teams (Pasco has won 10 straight). Pasco is 13-1; Land O'Lakes is 12-1. Ace vs. ace. Conference championship. The best team vs. the other team that people say is the best team. Tradition — when aren't these teams in the mix?

And this: Neither coach is ducking from it, even if there's no playoff implications on the way.

It's the Check Back With Me Afterward game.

You want to know how good Pasco is?

You want to know how good Land O'Lakes is?

You'll know soon.

Pasco-Land O'Lakes game will serve up answers 03/26/08 [Last modified: Thursday, March 27, 2008 9:10am]
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