Class 4A state semifinals

Published May 9, 2007

Game 1

Pasco vs. Okeechobee, 5 p.m.

About Okeechobee

Record: 25-3

Nickname: Brahmans

How they got here: It's gotten harder at each stop for Okeechobee, having won games by 9-1, 5-1 and 2-1 scores.

State titles: 0

All-time playoff record: 3-2

Best finish: The Brahmans had never won a playoff game until this season, losing first-rounders in 1995 and 2000.

Coach: Kim Hargraves 106-60, six seasons

The pitcher: The Brahmans will start Kelci Breaux, a senior who is 14-1 with a 0.55 ERA. She has won each playoff game and could be the top pitcher in the Class 4A final four, with 135 strikeouts in 98.2 innings. Mary Huff (8-1) and Rachel Lowe (3-1) round out a deep staff.

Outlook: The Brahmans have a potent offense (in the region semifinal they hit three home runs in one inning), so Pasco pitcher Colena Lazar will have to be sharp. They have hit 22 home runs, 20 triples and 71 doubles while batting .395 as a team. Seven regulars are hitting over .350, and five are over .400. Power-wise, five Brahmans have hit three homers or more.

Game 2

Lake Wales vs. Pensacola Escambia, 7 p.m.

About Lake Wales

Record: 22-6

Nickname: Highlanders

How they got here: Lake Wales beat Naples, the No. 2 team in the country, 1-0 in 11 innings as Brooke Gary singled in the winner.

State titles: 0

All-time playoff record: 19-9.

Best finish: 4A State runnerup in 1995 and '96

Coach: Nancy Denton (347-177-1, 19 seasons)

Top players: 2B Brooke Gary (Sr., .380 BA, four doubles, three triples, 12 RBIs), C Tabitha Martin (Fr., .402 BA, team-leading three HRs, 10 RBIs), SS Tiffani Upchurch (So., .360 BA, team-leading 10 doubles, 23 RBIs), 1B Rachel Hunt (Jr., .376 BA, seven doubles, four triples), 3B Brittani Thomas (Fr., .408, five triples, 23 RBIs).

The pitcher: Hanna Rogers is only a freshman, but has pitched beyond her years. She is 18-3 this season with a 0.64 ERA. In 154 innings, she has 103 strikeouts and 13 shutouts.

Outlook: The Highlanders are a year ahead of schedule, with eight freshmen and sophomores on a roster of 12. The Highlanders ended the regular season by losing four of their last five games, but have rebounded nicely, beating defending state champion Bartow in districts and snapping Naples' 28-game win streak in the region final. As a team, they have speed to burn (28 triples) and a well-balanced lineup (six starters are hitting .350 or better).

About Pensacola Escambia

Record: 26-5

Nickname: Gators

How they got here: Escambia beat bitter rival Navarre 9-6, holding on after taking an 8-2 lead.

State titles: 0

All-time playoff record: 17-7

Best finish: Lost in state semifinals in 2004 and '05

Coach: Mike Davis (267-81, 12 seasons)

Top players: 3B Brittany Peters (So., .408 BA, eight HRs, 50 RBIs), OF Chelsea Welch (Jr., .430 BA, 46 hits, 13 doubles), 1B Brandy Rogers (Sr., .355, eight doubles, 17 RBIs), C Maeghan Smith (Sr., .271 BA, two HRs, 25 RBIs), SS Nikki WIlfong (Fr., .355 BA, eight doubles, 19 RBIs), DH Katie Paige (Sr., .342 BA, 18 RBIs).

The pitcher: Sophomore Brittany Linton is 20-4 with a 1.11 ERA and has struck out 118 in 138 innings pitched with six shutouts.

Outlook: The Gators' schedule, primarily their district with the exception of Navarre, is a little suspect, as they have score 20 runs or more in four games and 12 or more in nine games. As a result, they have some of the best offensive numbers in the tournament. Peters' power stats are unmatched, and five players have 17 RBIs or more. They are the only district runnerup remaining in the Class 4A field, having lost to Navarre 8-7 in the final.

John C. Cotey can be reached at (727) 869-6261 or johncotey@gmail.com.