In Little League All-Star softball, as a team goes deeper in the tournaments, the games get closer and every pitch matters.
There are rarely blowouts, with the teams being so equally skilled.
Fortunately for Dade City Little League Junior Softball coach Mickey Roberts Sr., his team has been tested early and even has postseason experience.
So far, Dade City has answered every challenge and will be playing this weekend in the Little League State Championship.
Dade City's run started on the last weekend of June at the District 25 tournament. Dade City lost its first game to Land O' Lakes, 12-11. Dade City then needed to defeat Land O' Lakes twice in a row to advance to sectionals. Dade City pulled through in two thrilling victories, as it defeated Land O' Lakes 5-4 and 3-2 to advance to the sectionals last weekend at Lakewood Ranch Little League.
At the sectionals, it was more of the same for Dade City.
It took on East Point Little League first, jumping out to a 5-1 lead on big hits from Rainey Tomkow, Cheyanne Carter, Amber Garcia and Jasmine Garcia. East Point rallied to tie the game 5-5 in the top of the sixth inning, but a resilient Dade City answered in its half of the sixth.
Tomkow singled home Savannah Hicks, who had tripled. Amber Garcia then scored on Jasmine Garcia's bunt single to lead Dade City to a 7-5 victory.
In the sectional championship game, Dade City would have to prove itself again.
An early 3-1 lead against Plant City Little League evaporated in the fourth, and Dade City found itself trailing 4-3. The sixth inning again is when Dade City rallied. It scored three times to take home the sectional championship with a 7-4 win.
Roberts knows his girls are capable of coming back.
"We try to start off strong to get a lead," Roberts said. "Once we get the lead, we try to hold it, but there are times we've made an error here or there and had to come back and win the games late."
Dade City faces Fort Myers Little League on Saturday at noon.
Correspondent Steve Campbell can be reached at SteveCampbell@ ionmedia.com or follow him on Twitter @SCPascoTrib.