BROOKSVILLE - The last two unbeaten teams in Class 5A, District 7 met at Emerson Field Friday night.
Behind a tag-team effort by Daniel Miller and Kyle Kilbourne on the mound, host Hernando maintained its perfect district slate, defeating county-rival Central, 3-1.
The sophomore Miller got the start and went four innings, allowing one run on three hits and three walks while striking out six.
He gave way to the senior Kilbourne, who tossed three hitless innings to earn the save, yielding only a walk and compiling six whiffs of his own.
"It starts there (on the mound), always has, always will," Hernando head coach Tim Sims said. "Daniel Miller has been throwing the ball real well. He did a great job. Did an outstanding job coming out, threw his 70 pitches, and then Kilbourne comes in and shuts it down."
What was generally a pitchers' duel on a chilly evening was decided fairly early.
Justin Young's bloop single just over the infield down the third-base line sparked a two-out rally in the bottom of the first for the Leopards (7-1 overall, 5-0 5A-7).
Young stole second and came across when Kilbourne, starting off as the designated hitter, grounded a single to right, beating a high throw to the plate.
The Bears (4-2 overall, 4-1 5A-7) loaded the bases with none out in the top of the second, but only got one run on Trevor Muller's single to center, in part because center fielder Tyler Ledington threw a bullet to the plate to nail a second runner trying to score on the play.
In the bottom of the third, Kilbourne shot a liner over first base that landed just inside the line in right and skipped into foul territory. Kilbourne hustled out a double while Garrett Sims came around for the go-ahead run.
"It's always an added bonus. Whenever you're designated hitter, that's your job," Kilbourne said. "That's all I focused on the first couple of innings is just shorten up and try to do my job and get those runs in."
Andres Cabrera then blasted a double to deep center to bring in Kilbourne, and from that point both offenses basically shut down.
Hernando did not record another hit, only getting two on via walks. Muller collected his second single in the fourth for Central, the last hit for either squad.
Lefty Thomas Sorrentino started for the Bears, going 4 2/3 innings giving up the three earned runs on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts.
Dante Hamilton relieved in the fifth and struck out all four batters he faced.
"In these types of games, I told (his players) the margin for error is very little," Central head coach Al Sorrentino said. "The beginning of the game we didn't make a couple plays, a couple fly balls that probably should have been caught weren't and that was the difference. Thomas hung in there for us and threw well. Dante threw well. It wasn't our pitching, that's for sure.
"We didn't do a very good job at the plate. Our approach was not very good tonight. But both their pitchers threw well, they threw strikes and we just stood there a little too much looking at pitches. I give them credit, Daniel did a great job and Kyle at the end threw strikes."
Both coaches took the outcome in stride, considering the season isn't even a month old.
Still, having played every team in 5A-7 except Nature Coast, what was supposed to be a rebuilding Hernando club has outscored its opponents 32-7 in district action.
"Everybody's talking about records and all that," Kilbourne said, "but if we just keep playing the way we've played, the record will speak for itself."
Hernando 3, Central 1
123 456 7 R H E
CEN 010 000 0 - 1 3 2
HER 102 000 X - 3 5 2
CEN - T. Sorrentino, Hamilton (5) and Shiver.
HER - Miller, Kilbourne (5) and Treverton.
W - Miller. L - Sorrentino (1-2). S - Kilbourne.
2B - Kilbourne, Cabrera (HER).
3B - none.
HR - none.
Records - Central (4-2 overall, 4-1 5A-7), Hernando (7-1 overall, 5-0 5A-7).