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DADE CITY - The softball fields in this part of the county hope to exterminate a menacing villain. Her name is Shaina Dent.
The Groveland South Lake junior is best known for her crippling riseball that can hypnotize batters and take them out efficiently with strikeouts.
Pasco gets another crack at the Division I prospect tonight at 7 in the Class 4A region final.
It is a rematch from last year's 13-inning region quarterfinal, which the Eagles 25-3 won 4-3. Dent hit the winning RBI double and pitched the entire game. She reappeared last week, mowing down Zephyrhills in 5-2 region quarterfinal victory.
If the Pirates (25-4) get past Dent and advance, it would mark their second trip to the final four. The first came in 1994 under then-coach Tom Ryan, who now is at Pasco-Hernando Community College.
Pasco coach Shamalene Broner agreed that calling this the biggest game during her time here as a player or coach wasn't an overstatement.
"This is the type of night you should have butterflies tickling your stomach, " Broner said. "This is as big as it gets."
The Pirates began gathering beyond the leftfield fence just before 3 p.m. Monday. They anticipated a long afternoon of hitting in the choking heat, hoping to adjust to Dent's riseball.
A few Pirates said there are fewer riseball pitchers in high school than in travel ball, which makes the adjustment difficult.
"She was faster than what we were used to, " Pasco shortstop Brianne Farmer said. "We weren't ready for the riseball."
Dent's greatest feat this season was striking out all 21 batters in an 8-0 win over Celebration, which is believed to be a first for a Florida high school.
Eagles coach Beau Jarrell said Dent has received interest from UCF and Georgia.
"She'll have several opportunities to go places, " Jarrell said. "A lot of schools are big on her."
Broner said she didn't understand the big deal and wondered why her players seemed uptight. She promised to loosen them up with a speech and a practice that would ease tension.
"This is a better team than last year, " Pasco pitcher Liz Garcia said. "We really want to win."