Tyler Danish leads Durant into 8A state tournament
PLANT CITY -
What Tyler Danish has accomplished this season is nothing short of amazing.
The Durant High baseball standout has yet to allow an earned run this season, and with his eight home runs, the senior set a school record for most homers in a season.
On the mound, Danish is 14-1 with 147 strikeouts through 86 innings. He has collected double-digit strikeouts nine times this season and has allowed 30 hits and walked only 15 batters.
Equally impressive at the plate, he leads the team in batting (.415), hits (34), runs (23), RBIs (25) and slugging percentage (.756).
Today at 10 a.m., Danish will take the mound to lead the Cougars (24-5-2) against Hialeah American (23-9) in a Class 8A state semifinal in pursuit of the program's first state championship.
“We couldn't ask for something that's better than what we have going on right now,” Danish said.
Danish is at a point in his life where all of his dreams are coming true. He has signed a scholarship to play for the University of Florida, and, in a few weeks, he likely will see his name flash across the Major League Baseball draft board within the first few rounds.
Sadly, the person who helped prepare Danish for greatness won't be around to see it. Two years ago, Danish's father, Michael, lost his battle with cancer. His father died months before the start of his sophomore season.
“He was a big influence on my baseball career,” Danish said. “I just wanted to play this game for him and do what he always wanted us to do, and that was sign with a D-I school and maybe play professional baseball. Just to have those dreams that he and I had, and now to make them a reality, is something that pushed me on and kept me going. Through the rough times of baseball, when I wasn't being successful, or just in life, it helped to have that person who always pushed you.”
How he has managed to maintain his focus amid so many distractions is what makes Danish more impressive, according to his coach.
“I've been saying it from day one, he's a special kid, and that's what makes him special,” Durant coach Butch Valdes said. “He's been able to handle all of the fame and publicity and everything, and he just comes out here and does the same thing every day. He doesn't separate himself because he's on top of the draft list or that he's going to Florida. He's just one of the guys.”
Winning, Danish said, has been the key to his success.
“I just came out here play to win,” he said. “My stats are great, but it was more about winning and I think that's what helped, instead of putting pressure on myself to throw one-hitters and no-hitters every single game, something that could have ruined my year. Just going out and winning and not thinking about the stats.”
Watching Danish mature into an elite pitcher has been a joy for Valdes, who guided the Cougars to their fourth district title this season.
“He doesn't just throw,” he said. “He knows he can throw in the upper 90s, but he has control of his speed. He's fine-tuned himself into a good pitcher, knowing that he doesn't have to overpower you. He just has to outsmart you.''
It's a unique pitching style, to say the least.
“Definitely unorthodox,” Danish said. “Something a lot of people don't see. It's very violent, and the arm speed and arm action is something you just don't see a lot. I think the deception throws hitters off.”
Today in Fort Myers, Danish will focus on winning, not just for himself, but for his teammates, his school and community. Above all, for the man who helped him believe his dreams could come true.
“I know he's looking down on me.”