Durant falls short in state title game
FORT MYERS -
From the opening inning of Saturday night's Class 8A state baseball final, Durant struggled.
Yes, the Cougars kept battling, but in the end it was a night of near misses and frustrations, and the Cougars' last game of their magical season ended in an 8-3 loss to Lake Brantley.
“We just didn't play our best game,” said Cougars star Tyler Danish, who went 0-for-4 a day after going 3-for-4 with a two-run homer in a semifinal. “Maybe I was pressing a bit (at the plate). I wanted to make something happen. But it just didn't happen.”
The pressing started after Durant (25-6) gave up two runs in the first inning and four more in the third to trail 6-0.
The Cougars cut the deficit to four runs in the fourth and threatened a couple of times after that, only to get snuffed by several outstanding defensive plays by Lake Brantley (27-5).
“Hats off to (Lake Brantley),” Durant coach Butch Valdes said. “Their pitcher (lefty Bryce Tucker) came in and did his job and the ball just didn't go our way.”
A typically frustrating moment came in the sixth inning, when Jared Donini led off by drilling a single to right field. The Cougars' next hitter, Tyler Long, followed by smashing a line drive, only to have it snagged by Lake Brantley's leaping second baseman, who tossed the ball to first for a double play.
If Long's blast were just 6 inches higher, the Cougars would have been in business. Instead …
“That's the way it went,” Valdes said.
The loss unfortunately ends the best season in Durant history, which also included the best player, Danish, in school history.
Danish ended up throwing the last inning of Saturday night's game, allowing no runs, which means he finished his senior season by throwing 94 innings without giving up an earned run.
The performance followed a brilliant pitching outing in Friday's semifinal, where he allowed no runs, one hit (a harmless floater), struck out nine, walked one, had only two balls get out of the infield, and had five balls lamely ticked off full swings back to him, whereupon he tossed the ball to the first baseman for an out.
Unfortunately for Danish, he made the last out of the season, popping it to left field. Moments later, he solemnly walked by Lake Brantley celebrating in a pile on the pitcher's mound.
“It stinks to make the last out,” Danish said. “But overall, I will look back and have great memories with this team and this season. I'm so happy I played with this group of guys. It's been awesome.”