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Thursday, Apr 26, 2018
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Danish pitches shutout as Durant advances to 8A final

FORT MYERS - Durant senior Tyler Danish stepped on the mound Friday morning at JetBlue Park and threw 94-mph fastballs, diving sliders, wicked curves and nasty change-ups.

He threw them quickly from his quirky right-handed sidearm motion. Inside, outside, up and down. And his opposition, Hialeah American High, whiffed and whiffed and whiffed.

Was Danish the best pitcher American High had ever faced?

"Pffffffffff," American's Rodney Williams said. (Translation: "Of course, are you kidding me?")

Danish was — as he has been throughout this season, where he has given up no earned runs in 93 innings — awesome.

In seven innings on Friday, he allowed no runs, one hit (a harmless floater), struck out nine, walked one, had two balls get out of the infield, and had five balls lamely ticked off full swings come back to him, and he simply tossed the ball to the first baseman for an out.

Oh yes, he also went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer that sailed over JetBlue Park's "Green Monster," which dimensionally is 3 feet taller than Fenway Park's famous towering "Green Monster" in left field.

"He's a one-man show," American coach Ricky Gutierrez said. "He's unbelievable."

And after sealing Friday's 6-0 victory over American, he's also eligible to pitch three innings in tonight's Class 8A state title game at 7:35 against Lake Brantley, which defeated Jupiter 4-0 in Friday's other 8A semifinal.

After throwing 84 pitches on Friday, don't be surprised to see Danish on the hill today, perhaps to close out a state title. Under state series rules, he is allowed to throw 10 innings over two days.

"The plan is to go with Chaz (Fowler) for four innings and then go to (Danish)," Durant coach Butch Valdes said. "We'll evaluate after four innings and see where we are."

Danish (15-1) nodded at the notion of throwing in the final and said he would do whatever he could to help his team win the state title. As for him being a "one-man show," as Gutierrez said, Danish bristled a bit.

"I didn't get 12 hits today (Durant's total), and I didn't score six runs today," Danish said. "Every single kid on this team has contributed to this season, and to say it's a one-man show just isn't right. We're a family. We're in this together."

But it certainly doesn't hurt the confidence to have Danish on the hill with a 2-0 lead, which he gave himself with the towering shot in the third inning.

When Durant (25-5-2) pushed the lead to 4-0 after the fifth, American (21-9) appeared to be deflated despite coming in with a team batting average of .362.

"It's tough when you're facing a guy like that," Gutierrez said. "My guys had a good idea of what to expect, but (Danish) is a freak."

Right fielder Paxton Sims went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run, and Fowler, who played first base, went 2-for-4. Third baseman Luke Heyer also went 1-for-2 with and scored two runs.

"We're ready for (today's final)," Danish said. "All of us."
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