NEW PORT RICHEY — Riding an 11-game winning streak until Tuesday night's 4-3 loss to Sunlake, Pasco has been the hottest team on the North Suncoast with an 12-2 mark in its past 14 contests.
Add that Stetson signee Courtney Brandt was on fire during the run, going 7-0 and striking out 77 batters, and it seemed it would take a better-than-good effort for River Ridge to knock Brandt off her game.
The spark that stirred the Royal Knights' offense came from an unlikely bat, with freshman Morgan Toll stepping up and knocking out the first home run in her high school career to lead River Ridge (17-4) to a 4-1 victory Wednesday.
"This was a very big win for us," Toll said. "I'm leadoff batter so I had to start things off for us. I'm pretty comfortable at leadoff though; on my travel ball team I bat second. (Brandt) is a really good pitcher and she's going to go far."
The pitching matchup between Brandt (10 strikeouts) and River Ridge's Ana Alberti developed nicely through three innings, with the pitchers combining to allow only one hit and Brandt striking out five.
Toll's blast off Brandt to start the bottom of the fourth jump-started the Royal Knights' bats, as they put together four hits and scored three more runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Alberti pitched a gem, allowing eight hits and one earned run in 61/3 innings.
"I thought the girls stayed patient at the plate tonight," River Ridge coach Ernie Beck said.
Pasco (20-6) scored its lone run in the sixth, when sophomore Kelli Parker tripled to start the inning and later scored on a sacrifice fly by shortstop Lizzy Burchfield.