BY IZZY GOULD | Times Staff Writer
David Lazar handed a guy $30, then backed his gargling Ford F-250 diesel into a Dade City clay pit and started shoveling. ¶ That's when his twin daughters got serious about pitching. ¶ Thirty minutes later, Lazar was on his way home, and by the time sunlight turned to twilight, a swath of his back yard had become a pitcher's paradise. Lazar built a clay mound for his daughters and a clear 40-foot lane to home plate. This is the spot where Pasco's Colena and Colesa Lazar fine-tuned their pitching skills and traded childhood memories for a chance to make it in softball. ¶ "Most days we wanted to do it because we wanted to play professionally and get scholarships," Colena said. "When you see the whole neighborhood gang playing football or basketball across the street, we knew we had to pitch."
Today, the girls are right in the middle of the recruiting battle, with Division I programs highly interested in both girls, including Florida Atlantic, Florida State and Florida. They want to attend the same school and at this point have no interest in attending a school outside of the state, their father said; they're leaning toward FAU at the moment.
Colena grabs most of the attention as the Pirates' flame-throwing southpaw. Her latest success was collecting a season-high 15 strikeouts, then belting the winning double in a 4-1 come-from-behind win Thursday against Nature Coast.
Colesa is Pasco's centerfielder and is content with her diminished pitching role after a back injury limited her last season, though she did get her first start of the season Friday against Wiregrass Ranch.
Together, the juniors have terrorized leagues from T-ball to travel ball, planting their flags along the way and grabbing the attention of every opponent. Their reputation preceded them as buzz of "the twins" circled around the Bone Yard when they were in eighth grade.
That reputation developed quickly, and David talks proudly of how no one could catch the twins when they were mostly throwing fireballs, so they learned to catch each other.
But it was practice in the backyard where they invested at least 30 minutes three to four days a week, hurling pitches at David and each other.
Anyone who knows the Lazars knows they joke around a lot, and the twins can't resist keeping the atmosphere loose in the backyard.
"When they throw a drop ball, they'll drop it out in front of me so it will bounce and hit me in the shin," David said with the girls giggling on either side of him. "Then they'll sit there and laugh. When I try to get Colesa to do some of the things I'm telling her, it's a continuous battle. Next thing you know, mama's got the window open and she's yelling to knock it off."
Most afternoons, the girls will grab David as he pulls in the driveway and drag him out back. He tells anyone who will listen how he and wife, Colet, were the ones to teach the twins the basics. They were raised on softball fields, where they watched mom and dad play in slow-pitch leagues. Mom was their first coach in T-ball.
Pitching was always the draw, and they took a serious approach from the start, taking lessons from former Saint Leo and Pasco coach Ray Carver.
When the girls were 11 or 12, they made their first visit to Kaci Clark, a professional softball player who went undefeated at UCLA when the Bruins won the 1995 national title. Clark moved to the bay area and spent much of her downtime teaching hundreds of athletes how to pitch a softball.
Instruction with the girls could last up to two hours. Clark helped the twins — separated by a minute when Colena muscled her way into the world first — develop a deep arsenal of pitches ranging from an effective dropball to Colena's signature riseball.
Clark has grown close to the Lazars and even attended Thursday's game, sharing hugs with the girls between innings.
"Both of them are very athletic," Clark said. "The big question when you get an athlete is, how hard are they going to work? You have the ability to give everybody the same tools, it's just a matter of what they do with them. They've got a strong support system and a great work ethic. They work very hard at what they do."
Izzy Gould can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 580-5315.