Cougars work to clean up defense
PLANT CITY - Durant High senior catcher
Alyssa Colding said her team can’t afford to rest on its laurels, no matter how impressive it may be.
Even a state championship.
Though Durant captured the Class 8A state championship last season, marking the program’s first state title, Colding said getting by on last year’s success isn’t good enough.
“It’s still relevant, but it’s in our past,” she said. “We want to find a way to take this team.”
By clinching the top seed in Class 8A-District 7 on Tuesday, the Cougars (14-8) certainly took a step in the right direction. But before they can claim another title, the Cougars must first work out a few kinks. “We’re hitting, and that’s a good thing, but defensively, we’re still having problems catching and throwing,” Durant coach Matt Carter said.
Mistakes on the field have led to Durant’s eight losses, Carter said. As a team, Durant has committed 44 errors this season.
“We’ve had a lot of good games throughout the year, but those bad losses were happening when we’ve had a lot of errors.”
In addition to replacing two standout outfielders, Durant also needed to find a new shortstop. A dose of assurance for the Cougars, however, was the return of Colding and last year’s starting pitcher Paige Davis, who plan on ending their high school careers hoisting a state trophy.
“Last year, we just wanted to get there, but now that we have experienced it, it was a lot of fun and we want to experience it again,” said Davis, who is 12-4 on the mound with a 2.05 ERA.
“We know we have the talent to get there,” said Colding, who is batting .446 with 33 hits and 25 RBIs. “We just need to play tough every game and eliminate the mistakes to get there.”
Six players have homered for Durant this season and juniors Payton Lewis and Brooke Freeman join Colding in the 30 hits or more column.
The challenge this season, according to Paige and Colding, is team’s new status as “defending champion.’’
“I feel like people play us harder because they know we won,” Davis said. “Every little error cost more now.”
“It makes every game more serious,” Colding said. “It’s a little stressful.”
Durant will host the district tournament, something that should put their minds at ease. The Cougars are 6-1 at home this season. Still, Durant belongs to one of the more difficult district in the state, which includes the majority of the county’s top programs in Plant, Newsome, Bloomingdale, Wharton and Alonso.
“Home field advantage? Probably,” Carter said. “It can’t hurt.”
District sites The following schools will host district tournaments this season:
8A-District 7: Durant
7A-District 8: East Bay
7A-District 9: Freedom
6A-District 11: Sickles
5A-District 11: Lennard
4A-District 9: Academy of the Holy Names
3A-District 8: Seffner Christian
2A-District 9: Canterbury
Alejandro Villanueva, Steelers player and Army vet who stood alone, now has the NFL's top-selling jersey