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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
DADE CITY - One more strike would have sidestepped trouble.
And Pasco would have sidestepped a lesson in resilience.
The Pirates ended Tuesday with an improbable 5-2 come-from-behind victory over Groveland South Lake in the Class 4A region final.
Second chances and unlikely heroics made it a game Dade City folks should talk about for a long time.
A plot began to develop when trouble popped up in the fifth inning.
Pirates pitcher Colena Lazar reached deep into her glove for a life preserver to save her from the pair of base runners, standing on second and third. Forcing Groveland South Lake's Kaitlyn Wilbanks into a routine grounder seemed just as good.
But Pirates shortstop Brianne Farmer struggled with the throw to first baseman Liz Garcia. One run was in as Garcia turned home to stop another Eagle from scoring. The throw was late, and the wound wide open.
The top half of the fifth ended with Pasco in a 2-0 hole. It felt much deeper.
Lazar's head dropped in disgrace. She walked to the dugout and sat on a bench. Her eyes full of tears, she stuffed her face in a T-shirt.
The game wasn't over, though a silent Pasco dugout and a suddenly apathetic crowd said just the opposite.
The presence of Eagles ace Shaina Dent made the moment seem dire. The Division I prospect retired 11 in a row and seemed to gain strength.
Dent looked unbreakable and Pasco seemed doomed.
"Once they scored it kind of brought us down, " Farmer said.
Pirates sophomore Lucy Schneider began the resuscitation process. She clubbed a double to leftfield and reached third on a sacrifice bunt.
Suddenly, Pasco's offense had a pulse.
Dent turned right around and pulled the plug again, striking out the final two batters and stranding Schneider.
Another Pasco County team was headed for heartache.
Then in the bottom of the sixth came a pick-me-up from Colesa Lazar, who whacked an RBI single to score Shaba Brown.
"Once we scored that one run I knew we'd come back, " Colena Lazar said. "Once we get up and our spirit picks up we're good."
Dade City was back in it, though it prepared for the worst.
Not this time.
Farmer redeemed her fifth-inning throw with a leadoff triple, and Schneider brought her home with a sacrifice fly. The score was tied and Pasco's defense was up.
South Lake threatened with a base runner in the eighth, but Garcia caught a line drive and stepped on first for the double play.
Then in the ninth, freshman Megan Newsome made arguably the defensive play of the game, catching a flyball to right and throwing a laser to the plate - on her knees - in time for catcher Kalee Burchfield to tag out Cassie Goode.
After ending back-to-back innings on double plays, it was a matter of when and not if Pasco would win.
So with a pair of runners on in the bottom of the ninth, Schneider brought Pasco back with a crushing three-run home run over the leftfield fence.
After a raucous celebration around the pitcher's mound, the Pirates raked the field with more vigor than usual.
People will talk about the winning hit for weeks and remember this night for years.
For the next week, at least, Dade City can talk about something other than the 1992 state football champions.
"I never thought Lucy would hit it over under pressure like that, " Colena Lazar said. "I thought she'd get a base hit but that's about it."