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Gators ground Pirates

Left-hander Jono Cornelius started Land O'Lakes' biggest games last season, including regular-season contests against Pasco, Clermont East Ridge and Jesuit, and the region quarterfinal against Lakeland George Jenkins.

But when it came time to hit, Cornelius usually found himself back on the bench.

After grounding out to second base in his only plate appearance last season, Cornelius made a case for more at-bats as a senior by hitting about .500 during a tournament at the end of the fall season.

He made the most of his opportunities Tuesday, delivering two hits, including a three-run double, and pitching a shutout in an 11-0, six-inning victory over defending Sunshine Athletic Conference champion Pasco.

"People were joking that last game (a 17-strikeout performance against Central) I pitched good but I probably cared more about the two hits that I got," Cornelius said. "I've been trying to get in this lineup for three years now."

Caz Piurowski hit a two-run homer in the first inning, and Anthony Santa added a three-run shot in the sixth as Land O'Lakes (3-0) won according to the 10-run mercy rule.

Cornelius didn't always hit his spots, but he had his curveball and changeup working effectively enough to hold Pasco to four hits and a walk while running his shutout streak to 13 innings.

"He's throwing strikes and not beating himself, and we make most of the plays behind him," Land O'Lakes coach Calvin Baisley said. "It's high school, we'll kick them every now and then, but he doesn't lose his composure. When he goes out there, he gives us a chance to win, that's for sure."

After 10-run ruling Hudson and Springstead in its first two games, Pasco (2-1) suffered its worst loss since 1997 against Jesuit, coach Ricky Giles said.

Giles expects his team to bounce back before upcoming district games against Zephyrhills and Hernando.

"I think it's good for them," Giles said. "A lot of people know how to win, but a lot of people don't know how to take a loss. Now, the key to it is how well we rebound from this.

"These kids here, they'll rebound."