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Reaching final crucial to West Pasco

If the West Pasco junior softball team can survive two games in Saturday's Section 5 tournament at Cross Bayou in Seminole, then coach Rick Case likes his team's chances if it reaches Sunday's title game.

Because by Sunday, pitcher Jamie Case will be back from South Carolina and ready to pitch.

This season's District 12 champions are talented and skilled in just about every department. They're also brimming with confidence after overcoming post-season jitters in an 8-6 loss to Palm Harbor in their all-star debut.

Since then, West Pasco has won five consecutive games, including a two-game sweep of Palm Harbor in the District 12 final to earn the sectional berth.

But like any all-star team, the absence of a top pitcher is critical in the post-season.

Case will be absent because she's attending a volleyball camp with her Mitchell teammates in South Carolina. That means on Saturday, the West Pasco juniors will have to divide up the services of top pitchers Tricia Thomas and Carly Mitchell. Each is limited to pitching four innings in two games. A violation would make the team ineligible to compete Sunday.

But if West Pasco makes it to Sunday, and Case returns, then it will be armed with its full rotation. But can the team make it that far without her?

"It's like pulling a rabbit out of our hats," Rick Case said. "We're working on resolving that problem. We have two more pitchers on the team, but they're both very young. We'll just have to see what happens."

In four games this season, West Pasco has sent all three to the mound, rotating them in and out and keeping opposing teams off balance with their different styles and fresh arms.

"We're getting a really superior team effort from the girls," Case said. "There's not any of this wanting to play and being jealous and that stuff. We sat down and explained to everybody this is what we need the team to do to win, and that's what everybody is doing."

Defense has been solid, and the batting order has been productive offensively.

And when leadoff hitter and catcher Danielle Denny, shortstop Jamie Case, first baseman/rightfielder Carly Mitchell, first baseman Tricia Thomas or second baseman Melissa Kurzweil has struggled, then third baseman Ashley Boller, shortstop/rightfielder Meghan Chaple, centerfielder Lindsey Sowder or leftfielder Jenelle Dosher has stepped up. And vice versa.

"You're going to be hard-pressed to pick any of them over any other," the coach said. "We've been 10-running a lot of these teams, and that's because everyone's going up there and not wasting one at-bat. They're very focused at the plate."

Case also isn't worried about anymore post-season jitters.

"The last game against Palm Harbor, they were pretty much business-like," he said. "They wanted to get the game played, get it done, and get it over with.

"They came mentally and physically prepared to play the game and they did that."