On the mound, Pasco’s Duncan in complete control
DADE CITY - Blaine Duncan is just fine on the mound. In fact, the Pasco senior pitcher doesn't look back, except to watch his fielders take care of a ball in play. Beside that, there is no going back for the 6-foot left-hander - no going back to being a first baseman. "I got the opportunity to pitch and was a location kind of guy," said Duncan, who played first base in youth leagues. "I could always put it where the catcher wanted it. By the time I got to high school, (being a pitcher) became my role on the team. Once that happened, I said, 'Shoot, that's fine by me.' " Duncan should be fine. He is 5-0 with a 1.28 ERA and ranks second in Pasco County with 71 strikeouts. In leading the Pirates (12-6, 10-1) to first place in the Class 5A-District 8 standings, he has garnered interest from schools such as Saint Leo and Barry University."We have a good defense and we can pitch," first-year Pasco coach Pat Fortunato said. "We just have to hit. But guys like (Blaine) have taken on a leadership role and run with it. Sometimes, it starts with him." Duncan's next start is Tuesday at Ridgewood, one of Pasco's last three district games. The previous time Duncan faced the Rams (12-7, 10-2), he allowed only a hit and struck out 15 in a 3-0 win on March 8. "It's funny," Duncan said, "I try to go for outs and keep the least amount of runs scored. I do like the strikeouts, but it's usually not part of the game plan. I throw as many strikes as I can and if the ball goes in play then I have the utmost confidence in (my defense)." Fortunato sees the potential for Duncan to be an all-around player, despite his not having an official at bat this season. "He can hit a little bit, too," Fortunato said. "I can see that he used to play a different position and probably would've done well staying there. But he's our ace now." Duncan benefits not only from his veteran experience, but by being a left-handed pitcher. Since many of the county's players, even the top hitters, are right-handed, Duncan has an advantage, especially considering his fastball breaks away from those hitters. "It just runs away from hitters," Fortunato said. "I like having control on the mound, so that's where I feel I belong now," Duncan said. "That's one of the best feelings to have control of the game." So it will be up to Duncan and company to take control of 5A-District 8 and grab the No. 1 seed for the district tournament Pasco hosts, April 22-26. Duncan knows the team is capable of that and more. Something he's just fine with, as well. "Sometimes things don't go our way and we don't play up to the standards I know we're capable of," Duncan said. "But we're capable of a lot. We have some of the better hitters in the county. We're a very good team. We just have to play like it." Top 5 Teams (Records through Thursday) 1. Land O’ Lakes (16-2): The Gators locked up the No. 1 seed in 6A-District 10, outscoring opponents 130-46. 2. Mitchell (16-3): The Mustangs have won six straight and 14 of 15, yet two of their three losses are to district-rival Land O’ Lakes. 3. Pasco (12-6): The Pirates hold the top spot in 5A-District 8, thanks to scoring 118 runs and good pitching. 4. Wesley Chapel (14-5): The Wildcats have 10 district wins and hope Pasco slips so they can nab the 5A-8 top seed after splitting the season series with the Pirates. 5. Wiregrass Ranch (12-6): The Bulls got a big win over 7A-9 district-rival Gaither that should give them the tourney’s No. 2 seed. Correspondent Mike Camunas covers prep baseball in Pasco County. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MikeCamunas.