ZEPHYRHILLS — There is rarely this much concern after a victory.
Sure, Zephyrhills was crisp in a 4-1 win Thursday against Land O'Lakes on an unseasonably cold night with temperatures in the low 40s.
The real chill Bulldogs fans felt was watching star third baseman Lacey Cook leave the game after a recurring wound opened on her left knee in the first inning. Cook reluctantly headed to the hospital to have the gash — about the length of an index finger — treated.
At the minimum, Cook, a George Washington signee, will likely miss tonight's game at River Ridge, possibly more.
"That's a big mental blow," Zephyrhills coach Craig Milburn said. "… She's got stitches. She's going to be out for a while. She's the best third baseman in the county. That hurts."
Cook's exit left Milburn playing with four freshmen, buoyed by shortstop Tori Jordan. Their play — which Milburn called "nervous" at times — has been critical to the 6-1 start.
One advantage has been the consistent pitching of junior Lauren Pasquale, who earned the complete-game shutout topped with 10 strikeouts.
"Ten strikeouts is a big help," Milburn said.
The Gators (4-2) opened the game with a 1-0 lead when a sacrifice bunt scored Tara Marshall.
The Bulldogs answered in the bottom half when Cook blasted a two-run double to leftfield, scoring a pair of runs. She later scored on an error to make it 3-1.
In the second, Cook's freshman sister, Hannah, would score the final run on a heads-up baserunning play for a 4-1 lead.
The Bulldogs defense allowed only one baserunner past first.
"I thought this would be a more intense game than it was because Land O'Lakes is always so high," Pasquale said. "(Tonight's) going to be really hard because (River Ridge) has Lakyn Shull, and she's one of my friends. We've already been talking trash to each other."
Izzy Gould can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 421-3886.