Softball: For Durant, who's on first?
PLANT CITY - The Durant High softball team stormed through the first two-thirds of the season and felt pretty good with a 14-1 record. Then strange things started happening. An error here. An error there. A loss. Followed by another. And another. Durant's Olivia "OC" Cuellar couldn't shake the feeling that things needed to change, namely every single position in the infield."There comes a time when all good things must come to an end," Cuellar said. "We had played well with the previous lineup, but for some reason we started to struggle." Cuellar and her infield mates — Kennedy Dean, Brooke Freeman and Payton Lewis — and coach Matt Carter agreed to make switches. Cuellar moved from second base to shortstop, Freeman moved from shortstop to first, Dean moved from first to third, and Lewis moved from third to second. It may sound like a confusing Abbott and Costello routine, but it's not to the Cougars. Who's on first? "Freeman," said Dean, whose move to third was fine with her because she had played third most of her life in Little League. Dean also said she loves the comfort of having Freeman at first. "(Freeman) is a great first baseman," Dean said. "She gives me confidence. All my teammates give me confidence." Lewis said everybody was fine with the moves because everybody simply "Wants to win." And win they have. After the switches, the Cougars (22-4) have won eight straight, including a dramatic run of victories starting in the district tournament. The drama has included coming back from an 11-0 fifth-inning deficit to beat Alonso 15-13 in the district final, and three other victories that required walk-off home runs. Every victory has featured a different hero and at no point has there been dissension among the ranks. "This is a group that never gets on each other," Carter said. "When you spend so much time together you're not going to get along all the time. That happens. But in the end when it comes to putting team first, this group always does it. "They are great teammates." The next challenge is today's Class 8A state semifinal in Clermont at 7 p.m. against Jacksonville Mandarin (25-5) — a challenge Cuellar feels the Cougars are more than ready for. "We feel we can come together and find a way to win every game," Cuellar said. "We totally believe in each other."
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