Prep baseball: Danish leads Durant by Alonso
PLANT CITY -
Durant baseball coach Butch Valdes dubbed Tuesday’s loss to Bloomingdale “a bad night.” So as he has a number of times this season, the Cougars’ coach looked to senior Tyler Danish to get things back in rhythm for Durant — and the staff ace didn’t disappoint in a complete-game effort.
Danish turned in his fifth double-digit strikeout performance of the season as the University of Florida commitment allowed three hits and struck out a dozen as Durant topped Class 8A-District 7 opponent Alonso, 3-0, on Wednesday night.
The win moves both teams to 6-2 in the district, but the Cougars have won both of the regular-season meetings behind Danish (7-0, with a 0.00 ERA) and are now at the top of the six-team district.
“We looked at this game as having that playoff atmosphere,” Danish said. “We took it as a win-or-go-home thing, and we came through when we needed to.”
The Ravens got a solid start from senior Ryan Shives (0-3), who struck out five and allowed two hits (both singles from No. 9 hitter Jared Donini) through his first five innings. However, the Cougars finally found some space in the sixth when, with one out, Shives hit Luke Heyer with a pitch, Paxton Sims followed with a single and Chaz Fowler (who took the loss in Tuesday’s 7-1 setback against Bloomingdale) drove a fastball to the grass and drove in the deciding run.
“We needed our bats to come alive a little bit,” Fowler said. “Getting that first batter on with the hit-by-pitch was huge, and then everyone following through from there.”
For his coach, Fowler’s hit after a tough outing as a pitcher against Bloomingdale was indicative of how his 13-4 Cougars have been able to quickly get over their stumbles.
“They got that confidence going, and they passed it on from one to another,” Valdes said. “The good thing is, you saw Chaz had a tough night last night, but turned it around and helped out the team today.”
“That’s what this team is all about.”
The Cougars added two more runs in the sixth on a Cade Kelley sacrifice bunt and a Tyler Long one-run single.
Long was key in keeping the shutout streak alive for his battery mate, as the junior catcher followed a strikeout with a strong throw to catch a Ravens runner trying to advance to third for the final out of the inning.