DADE CITY — There's not been much that Pasco senior right-handed pitcher Courtney Brandt hasn't been through during her four varsity seasons.
Well, up until Friday night, when Pasco ground out a 2-0 victory over North Suncoast power River Ridge in a Class 4A region semifinal. So the Pirates (25-6) will be making their first region final appearance since 2007, when they reached the Class 4A state championship game.
A region final showing is the one thing Brandt has not experienced in her stint at Pasco. But now it sounds like the Stetson signee is enjoying every second of it.
"We had a big crowd come and follow us (Friday) so homefield advantage is huge," Brandt said.
Pasco, 13-0 at home this season, hosts playoff nemesis Harmony at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
"The whole school is excited and all the athletic teams are coming out and supporting us. Kids at school are asking all the time, when the next game is, when to come and show up and all the signs they're going to make for us. We just love it."
Since that runnerup finish in 2007, getting past the second round at region has been a problem for Pasco. The Pirates bowed out 2-1 in a region quarterfinal against Harmony in 2008, and again to the Longhorns in 2009, 7-6 in a region semifinal. Last year, Pasco fell 12-2 to Zephyrhills in a region quarterfinal.
But Brandt points out that many of the younger players have grown up quickly during this postseason run.
Sophomores Jordan Lane (four home runs) and Kelli Parker (26 RBIs) came up big against River Ridge. Lane, a third baseman, knocked in an insurance run in the sixth inning, and Parker, a centerfielder, made a grab that denied River Ridge's Ana Alberti extra bases.
"I just feel like a lot of our younger players grew up and got a hold of the game better," Brandt added.
"Everyone is focused, and I think that's the difference right now. It was so important for the younger players to grow up because we don't have many older players."
There are three seniors on the roster besides Brandt (219 strikeouts), but the four-year starter has been basically the main cog for the Pirates since she pitched a no-hitter and struck out 13 in her debut as a freshman against Hernando in 2008.
She has had several big moments since her first no-no, and the fireballer is looking forward to Tuesday night and doing a little growing up of her own.
"(Courtney Brandt) will do what she has to do to win Tuesday night," coach Lisa Herndon said. "She doesn't say a lot, but when she does everyone buys in right away. Getting a scholarship like she has, they see that there's a future for her, and some of them want to earn one as well."