Pirates finally in a final

Stellar pitching puts Pasco in the championship game today vs. Lake Wales.

Published May 10, 2007

PLANT CITY - Colena Lazar started preparing for the final four in sixth grade.

Her father, David, took her to every softball state championship hoping it would give her an edge for the day she pitched for a state title.

Tonight, she'll get her chance.

Lazar was brilliant Wednesday, striking out 14 en route to a 3-0 win in a Class 4A state semifinal against Okeechobee.

Pasco advanced to its first state final and could become the first Pasco County softball state champion since Ridgewood won the 3A title in 1992.

"It's a great feeling right now, " Pasco coach Shamalene Broner said. "It'll be even greater tonight when it's over and we're crowned the champions.

"We're going to take it."

Broner admitted to putting a lot of pressure on the Pirates (27-4). The Florida State Hall of Famer was under the same scrutiny during her playing days and demands the best of her players.

When asked if Lazar, who was seated directly to her left, had given her top performance of the season, Broner firmly pressed the gas.

"She's capable of doing better, " Broner said. "She's got to work for it."

Lazar pitched a complete game with no walks, two hits and no runs. Her season high for strikeouts was 15 in a 3-2 win against Gulf on opening day.

Lazar tweaked her pitches after she spent Monday working on her changeup and riseball. She said she probably threw five fastballs against the Brahmans (25-4).

While Lazar locked it down on defense, the Pirates searched for runs.

They finally broke through in the sixth when Lucy "Clutch" Schneider dropped a textbook suicide squeeze to bring in Tanesha Ranson - a courtesy runner for Kalee Burchfield - for a 1-0 lead.

Broner had promised Lazar a run, and the offense delivered.

In the seventh, Pasco added some insurance with a pair of runs with two outs, scoring Shaba Brown on an outfield error and Ranson on a Brianne Farmer single.

Okeechobee coach Kim Hargraves looked perplexed by the lack of offense from her players, noting eight of the nine starters came in batting above .300 with two home runs or more each.

How much confidence did she have in her team?

"I'd of been a betting person today, " Hargraves said. "I'd have been a Pete Rose."

Izzy Gould can be reached at igould@tampabay.com or (727) 580-5315.

State softball

All games at Plant City Stadium

Class 6A

Spruce Creek (28-1) vs. Everglades (27-2), noon Friday

Countryside (24-5) vs. Miami Palmetto (26-3), 2 p.m. Friday

Final, 1 p.m. Saturday

Class 5A

Chamberlain (28-2) vs. Pace (23-5), 5 p.m. Friday

Newsome (23-5) vs. West Boca Raton (17-12), 7 p.m. Friday

Final, 4 p.m. Saturday

Class 4A

Pasco 3, Okeechobee 0

Lake Wales 6, Pensacola Escambia 1

Final, 7 tonight

Class 3A

Orlando Trinity Prep 2, Miami Gulliver Prep 0

Class 2A

Wewahitchka 4, Mount Dora Bible 3

Westminister Christian 2, Mayo Lafayette 1

Final, 4 p.m. today

Class A

Pine Castle Christian 4, Fort Myers Southwest Florida Christian 0