SPRING HILL - Down to its last strike, trailing by two with no one on base, Hernando seemed assured of its first loss Tuesday night.
Then when host Springstead loaded the bases with one away in the bottom of the seventh, the Leopards were once again staring at certain defeat.
So how did Hernando manage to pull out a 6-4 victory in eight innings over its county rival? For those that didn't witness this contest, it might be difficult to fathom.
"This group likes playing baseball," Hernando head coach Tim Sims said. "They do realize it's 21, sometimes 24 outs, and they just keep playing.
"They do have a tendency to try too hard and I think you saw that tonight in instances. A couple of them started relaxing and letting it happen, and I think the more we play the more they'll do that."
This game had no district implications, yet it clearly meant something to the Eagles (2-2), who sent ace Kyle Stein to the mound despite a looming Class 6A, District 10 tilt at Seminole-Osceola on Friday.
"I think it's huge," Springstead head coach Jim Diven said. "One of my goals is to win the (county). I think that we should have won this game. It was big for us. Now we've got two losses in a row and this one we shouldn't have lost."
Diven meant no disrespect to Hernando (6-0); considering the Eagles held a 4-2 advantage in the top of the seventh, they had reason to believe this one was in hand.
Kyle Cotilletta doubled and scored on a wild pitch in the third, and legged out another two-bagger on a fly ball that inexplicably dropped between two defenders in shallow left field in the fifth.
Another wild pitch and an error - one of the Leopards' three on the night - contributed to two more runs coming across.
Hernando had scored in the third on Justin Young's single to right that rolled just past the second baseman's glove.
In the fourth, Brad Ellis laced a low liner to left for a single and run batted in after Austin Treverton had doubled.
That was all for the Leopards' scoring until the seventh. A leadoff walk to begin that frame ended Stein's outing, but the runner was caught in a rundown trying to steal second.
Following a strikeout, Young was down in the count 0-2 before battling back for a double to deep center.
Kyle Kilbourne walked, bringing Treverton to the plate. He swung through a third strike; however, the ball bounced all the way to the backstop, allowing him to reach.
Andres Cabrera worked a walk to cut the deficit to one. A balk call brought in Garrett Sims, who had run for Kilbourne, to tie the game.
In another odd twist, the rally ended with a runner getting thrown out trying to steal home.
For Springstead in the bottom of the seventh, an error, a single by Joe Jeffords and an intentional pass to Jake Mannino loaded the sacks with one out for Ryan Keith.
Though Keith hit a sharp line drive, it went right to Cabrera at first, who easily ran to the bag for an inning-ending double play.
In the top of the eighth, four of the first five Leopards walked, Tanner Bammert doing so with the bases full to notch the go-ahead RBI.
Young followed with a run-scoring groundout to second, and Bradley Platt tossed a 1-2-3 bottom half to finally end the proceedings.
"You come to play when it's Springstead-Hernando. Both teams want to win," Sims said. "It's a fun time win or lose."
Hernando 6, Springstead 4 (8 inn.)
123 456 78 R H E
HER 001 100 22 - 6 5 3
SPG 001 030 00 - 4 8 3
HER - Young, Miller (5), Platt (7) and Treverton.
SPG - Stein, Siem (7), Martinez (8) and Brosher.
W - Platt. L - Siem.
2B - Treverton, Young (HER); Cotilletta 2 (SPG).
3B - none.
HR - none.
Records - Hernando (6-0), Springstead (2-2).