BROOKSVILLE - Two Hernando County teams will join top seed and host Hernando in the Class 5A, District 7 semifinals Wednesday evening at Tom Varn Park.
On a dark and dreary day for three quarterfinal fast-pitch softball tilts, fifth-seeded Central solved fourth-seeded Pasco in the day's only upset, 7-3.
CHS (6-19) sophomore southpaw Kaeleen Koehler overcame getting hit by three line drives on the mound to post a gutsy complete-game six-hitter over the Lady Pirates (9-16).
Koehler helped herself going 3-for-3 at the plate behind a pair of doubles and a game-high three runs batted in.
Senior third sacker Hannah Charlwood hit into a rare triple play in the top of the fifth before finishing 2-for-4.
Sophomore Ashley Logan, who came in hitting .188, enabled the Lady Bears to topple the Dade City crew for the second time this season behind a 2-for-3 effort at the plate.
By snapping the team's 12-game losing skein, CHS faces rested Hernando (23-2) at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
On the other side of the bracket, third-seeded Zephyrhills cracked 13 hits - featuring safeties by eight of the nine starters - to oust sixth-seeded Weeki Wachee in four innings via the 15-run mercy run, 17-2.
ZHS (13-11) was paced by frosh Tiayanna Leddick's 3-for-4 effort featuring a three-run triple and a game-high five RBI.
For the Lady Bulldogs under first-year skipper and former Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Baseball Player of the Year, Jeff Hupp, senior Hannah Borgemenke, junior Lindsey Hupp and sophomore Stephanie Mesiemore each rapped two hits in support of right-hander Selena Tinajero (4-1).
Tinajero handcuffed the Lady Hornets (3-22) to four singles as no WWHS player secured multiple hits.
In the nightcap, Wesley Chapel leadoff batter Ashley Butler deposited a 3-1 Alyssa Gonzalez (7-0) offering over the right-field wall for the 0-22 Lady Wildcats.
NCT (21-3) took over after that pounding a game-high 16 hits highlighted by 4-for-4 efforts by sophomores Brittney Rodriguez and Chyloe Gonzalez, and a 3-for-3 evening by frosh Abbey Primavera to eliminate the Lady 'Cats via the 15-run mercy rule in three innings, 16-1.
Veteran skipper Ernie Chatman didn't consider Tuesday's tilt a masterpiece.
"We hadn't played in a week, but we happened to hit everything where they weren't," explained the second-year Lady Shark mentor. "It was good for us because we hadn't played in a while. Hopefully, a game like this brings us to the right frame of mind tomorrow."
With the win, NCT faces Zephyrhills in the first semifinal at 6 p.m. The Lady Sharks edged ZHS twice during the regular season, 6-3 and 7-5.
Pasco, not Central, appeared to be the team entering on a 12-game skid.
In the first frame, Central jumped on Pasco right-hander Rainey Tomkow (5-7) for four quick runs on five hits.
CHS' Aaliyah Roberts coaxed a leadoff walk before Logan singled up the middle.
Koehler, who arrived hitting a team-best .448, slugged an RBI single, 1-0.
Alex Eisenhauer, Charlwood and freshman Skylar Heyward followed with consecutive RBI singles, 4-0.
The Dade City nine cut the deficit in half with two runs in the third on an RBI double by Kaylee Britton and an RBI single by Tomkow, 4-2.
The Lady Pirates should have scored an additional run, but Britton was picked off at third base by the catcher Eisenhauer.
In the top of the fifth, Koehler walked before Eisenhauer reached safely on a fielder's choice.
CHS skipper Tyson Ellis removed Koehler for courtesy runner Viv Ortiz and Eisenhauer for courtesy runner Dakota McFarland.
With nobody out, Charlwood launched a popup toward the pitcher's mound. The home plate umpire called for the infield fly rule - meaning Charlwood would be the first out.
But the ball ticked off Tomkow's glove falling safely to the turf. She immediately threw to third sacker Amber Caudill, who tagged Ortiz out before firing a relay throw over to second base where Britton tagged McFarland completing a rare triple play.
This wasn't the county's first. Weeki Wachee completed a triple play two weeks earlier.
With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Caudill coaxed a walk and scored three pitches later on a ringing RBI double to right-center by Tomkow, 4-3.
CHS broke it open with three runs in the seventh.
Two hit batsmen, a walk, a wild pitch and a throwing error permitted Sam Smith to score before Koehler launched a two-two double to left-center to plate Roberts and Logan to close the books.
On the hill, Koehler permitted four free passes, but countered with nine strikeouts to push the Lady Bears into the tourney semifinals.
"Getting that early run support was helpful," explained the 16-year-old Koehler. "It got me into a good rhythm early on. This showed me a lot. Last year, we had a better team but we couldn't win our first (district) game.
"Tomorrow, we need to be error-free and have good pitch selection against (Hernando senior) Courtney (Riddle)."
"Kaeleen did great," insisted Charlwood. "We all wanted to win this so bad. I'm glad the season didn't end today."
Pasco skipper Lisa Herndon reminded that Tuesday's first inning was a haunting replay from the past.
"We've seen a lot of these type starts," lamented Herndon. "We played better after the first inning. I thought we had played better over the last few games. Not finishing has been an issue, too."
"This is a good bunch of girls," identified Herndon, "I have no regrets. I just wish it could have had a different ending."
"The first inning was huge," detailed CHS' Coach Ellis. "Jumping out to a four-run lead was pretty big. It definitely got our momentum going.
"We had some chances to tack on but didn't until the end when Lefty (Koehler) came in big-time with that last double."
On what Coach Ellis was most proud of, "Lefty turned in a gutsy performance. Even after she got hit, she handled her business well," he said. "I just hope she's OK to go for tomorrow. We need something positive to happen again tomorrow.
"I'm looking forward to playing Hernando."
The Lady Bears have dropped their last seven meetings to archrival HHS since March 25. 2011's 15-2 ambush at Bear Park.
The two teams haven't played in a district playoff game since the epic 2-1 3A-8 Leopard win on April 26, 2000.
Central 7, Pasco 3
123 456 7 R H E
CEN 400 000 3 - 7 9 2
PAS 002 010 0 - 3 6 1
CEN - Koehler and Eisenhauer.
PAS - Tomkow and Boyette.
W - Koehler (6-17). L - Tomkow (5-7)
2B - CEN: Koehler (2). PAS: Britton, Tomkow.
Records - Central (1-0 tourney, 6-19 overall), Pasco (0-1 tourney, 9-16 overall).
Zephyrhills 17, Weeki Wachee 2 (4 Innings)
123 4 R H E
WW 100 1 - 2 4 2
ZEP 812 6 - 17 13 0
WW - Bartholomew and Neuguth.
ZEP - Primavera and C. Gonzalez.
W - Tinajero (4-1). L - Bartholomew.
2B - ZEP: Hupp, Graves, Tinajero.
3B - ZEP: Leddick, Mesiemore, Nester.
Records - Weeki Wachee (0-1 tourney, 3-22), Zephyrhills (1-0 tourney, 13-11 overall).
Nature Coast Technical 16, Wesley Chapel 1 (3 Innings)
12 3 R H E
WC 10 0 - 1 3 1
NCT 43 (9) - 16 16 0
WC - Criqui and Mumaw.
NCT - A. Gonzalez and C. Gonzalez.
W - A. Gonzalez (7-0). L - Criqui (n/a).
2B - NCT: David, Primavera.
3B - NCT: Rodriguez, C. Gonzalez.
HR - Butler (WC).
Records - Wesley Chapel (0-1 tourney, 0-22 overall), Nature Coast Technical (1-0 tourney, 21-3 overall).
5A-7 Girls Softball Tourney Recap
at Tom Varn Park
Brooksville-Central 7, Dade City-Pasco 3
Zephyrhills 17, Weeki Wachee 2 (4 Inns.)
Brooksville-Nature Coast Technical 16, Wesley Chapel 1 (3 Inns.)
Zephyrhills vs. Brooksville-Nature Coast Technical, 6 p.m.
Dade City-Pasco vs. Brooksville-Hernando, 8 p.m.