EAST LAKE — Could this be the year?The past four seasons have been very successful for East Lake with three straight district championships and four consecutive appearances in the region tournament. But there’s been one other constant: a Lakewood Ranch squad that has ended the Eagles’ postseason run each time with authority, outscoring the locals 22-1 in those encounters.But growth has emerged from those high-profile defeats, discipline and character that can carry a team through tough times as well as another matchup with the Mustangs.Take Wednesday’s Class 8A opener against Palmetto, a team that hadn’t played in regionals since 2013 but jumped on Eagles starter Tori Brennan for a pair of first-inning runs.East Lake’s demeanor and approach didn’t change with the deficit, and 13 batters later, the Eagles had exploded for nine first-inning runs en route to a 15-2, four-inning rout.“That’s what we said, don’t get a sense of urgency,” East Lake coach Kristie Delk said. “We have plenty of innings, we’re still going to play to get our leadoff batter on, still going to bunt and play for a couple of runs. We’re going to stick to what we’re doing.”What East Lake has been doing is cornering the market in productive at-bats starting at the top with leadoff hitter Caroline Jacquay.“I know my job when I get up to bat,” the senior said. “I get on, Ashley (Kirkbride) bunts me over then Nikki (Steiniger) and McKenna (Graham) do their job to hit me in.”With a team-high 43 hits and a .489 average, Jacquay sets the table well, and with an amazing total of just 60 team strikeouts in 28 games, she knows those that follow have the ability to come through.“At the end of every practice, we have a drill we call ‘Competition’,” Jacquay said. “We focus a lot on two-strike hitting, really focusing on getting the ball down and through the defense. When you put pressure on the defense, make the ball bounce, the other team can’t make a play on it.”Against Palmetto (18-11), Jacquay was a perfect 4-for-4, scoring three times and driving in a pair of runs. Steiniger brought home four runs with a single and a bases-loaded double. Brennan helped her own cause with a two-run single while the bottom of the order ― Brooke Roberts (two hits, RBI, two runs scored), Kansas Crean (three-run double and run-scoring base hit) and Shermaine Caballes (two hits, two runs scored) produced.All the while, Brennan shook off a tough start to hold the Tigers hitless over the final three innings, retiring 14 of the last 15 batters she faced. The senior recorded five strikeouts in her two-hit victory.Now at 27-1, with a 26-game win streak, Delk and the Eagles think they have what it takes to topple nationally-ranked Lakewood Ranch (an 11-0, five-inning winner over Pinellas Park) on Tuesday and move deeper into the state playoffs.“It's a special group, and with what we've been doing this has been a special season," Delk said. "Everyone's believed in us up to this point but no one believes we can (beat the Mustangs). We're an underdog but we're a team that's scary. We're going to show up and play softball no matter what happens. We're going to leave it all on the field.”“Our focus has been great this year,” Jacquay concluded. “We stay up, we do what we can to put people on base, make great plays defensively … just stay focused and play with heart."