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Highlanders just as solid as Pasco

Despite the lack of a challenge in semifinal, Highlanders coach will not take any team for granted, especially in a state final.

By CHRIS WAGENHEIM
Published May 10, 2007


PLANT CITY - Lake Wales, Pasco's opponent tonight, had little trouble in its semifinal, beating Pensacola Escambia 6-1.

Despite the lack of a challenge, Highlanders coach Nancy Denton will not take any team for granted, especially in a state final.

"We really didn't see that much of Pasco, " Denton said. "But as far as I can see they have got some speed and they look like good defensive players, too. We are going to have to play error-free ball and we are going to have to keep the ball in play as well."

The Highlanders were consistent at the plate, scoring runs in four innings. Freshman third baseman Brittani Thomas went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and a run. Five other Lake Wales players recorded a hit. Freshman Hannah Rogers allowed one run on six hits while only walking four.

"I will have to try to stop (Pasco) from scoring any runs, " Rogers said. "We watched a few batters (Wednesday) and they hit the ball pretty good."

OLD COACH PROUD: Pasco-Hernando Community College softball coach Tom Ryan knows a little something about the state semifinals and the Pirates.

Ryan skippered the only other Pasco team to get to the final four in 1994 and coached current Pasco coach and FSU Hall of Famer Shamalene Broner.

"She was always a student of the game, " Ryan said. "She was like another coach on the field, she knew situations. She's athletic enough to make plays and vocal enough to be the leader."

Ryan refused to take any credit for Broner's success as a player or coach.

"Groom is the wrong word, " Ryan said. "It is nice to see somebody that you had a little bit of dealings with, but she has had a lot more people in her corner that have helped."

IN THE STANDS: Despite the long drive, Okeechobee seemed to dominate the Plant City Stadium stands. Arriving early and leaving late, a solid wave of purple shirts flooded the gates.

"In Okeechobee, when a sport is done well, fans come out in droves, " coach Kim Hargraves said."

The Brahmans are used to seeing large crowds as they never hit the road during the postseason.

"We hosted every regional game, " Hargraves said. "During that, we had 500-plus fans at a home game."

Broner thought Pasco's region final baseball game likely cut into the softball team's support.

"I think that we had fan support considering the baseball game (was Wednesday), " Broner said.

"I think today there might be more (fans)."