A week of wins or woe

Published March 13, 2007

DADE CITY - Pasco faces its toughest week on paper with three of the county's heavy hitters coming to town. Times staff writer Izzy Gould caught up with the Lazar sisters - Colena and Colesa - and catcher Kalee Burchfield to break down the week and get a sense of the buzz inside Pasco's dugout during this critical stretch.

Three nasty opponents

Zephyrhills at Pasco, tonight at 7

Name a time when these teams played and one wasn't thinking about revenge? The Bulldogs are eager to take down the Pirates after falling 7-1 in their first meeting at Zephyrhills. This is a key Class 4A, District 8 game and the girls agree this is a heated rivalry that dates to training wheels and merry-go-rounds.

Land O'Lakes at Pasco, Thursday at 7 p.m.

The Pirates were swept by the Gators last season so it's obvious they badly want this one. A win would be a true measure of their talent and strength, plus bragging rights as arguably the county's best team. This is the start of a two-game stretch that could determine the Sunshine Athletic Conference champion.

River Ridge at Pasco, Friday at 7 p.m.

The Royal Knights come to town with something to prove and hope to catch Pasco running out of juice. This one will answer if Pasco has enough endurance at midseason. And it might just give the Pirates the confidence they seek closing in on the district tournament.

The pitchers

The Pirates have a pair of aces in Colena Lazar and Liz Garcia. Lazar rose to 6-2 after she helped the Pirates to a 7-2 win over district rival Hernando on Friday. She entered that game ranked second in the county with 70 strikeouts thanks to her stunning fastball and riseball. Burchfield, who catches and calls all of the pitches, has a great sense for Lazar, which is key to developing a rhythm. She also is close to Garcia, whose pinpoint accuracy has her at 3-0 with the county's leading ERA at 0.36.

The hitters

The meat of the Pirates' order is made up of Lucy Schneider, Brianne Farmer and Kalee Burchfield, usually hitting Nos. 3, 4 and 5, respectively. Schneider is known for belting in runs. Farmer gets plenty of hits, and Burchfield has the hot bat with Pasco's leading average at .583. Heck, even Lazar gets plenty of extra base hits with a pair or home runs and five doubles.

The defense

Schneider is a star at third base. She covers plenty of ground and can fire the ball to first in a snap. Farmer helps tighten up the left side as a standout shortstop and Colesa Lazar is the star of the outfield, who proudly proclaims she can cover plenty of ground in the Boneyard. The girls agree the defense works as a unit backing one another in times of trouble.

The coach

Shamalene Broner is beloved by the girls we spoke with. Burchfield called her the best coach she has ever had. What makes Broner special? The girls say it's the way she corrects mistakes. She doesn't just tell you what you're doing wrong, she shows you how to fix. The girls respect her because she was a player at Florida State. And she has proven through her coaching she is one of the county's best.

The ups and downs of a season

Key losses: A 5-4 loss to Hernando exposed early mental breakdowns and something that desperately needed to be fixed - state of mind. Falling to Mitchell was another heartbreaker against one of the county's top hitting teams. The girls believe they should have won both.

Key wins: A 7-2 win over Hernando on Friday was a big step toward the district title. And it proved to the Pirates they could step up after making mistakes as they did when they lost in the first meeting. And winning at Zephyrhills was huge because of the rivalry aspect and because the Pirates won a key district game against Pasco last season.

What it all means

Beating the Bulldogs will bring Pasco one step closer to No. 1 seed in the district tournament. Beating the Gators will prove Pasco is among the best in the county. Beating the Royal Knights should all but wrap up the Sunshine Athletic Conference title.

Izzy Gould can be reached at igould@tampabay.com or 813 909-4619.