By Ryan Butler

With many key components returning from last year’s state championship team, the Durant varsity softball team is focusing on improving themselves, not the extra pressure and attention from opponents that comes with a title.

“It’s tough. We know that we have big targets on our back,” said Durant head coach, Matt Carter. “Everybody wants to beat us and that’s fine. And that makes them a little bit hungry too.”

The schedule has also posed a problem this season.

In the past week, an unfortunate string of scheduling conflicts was partially to blame for a tough midweek loss to Strawberry Crest.  Several players were involved in steer showing at the Strawberry Festival and couldn’t make the game. SAT testing kept several more players from participating in the team’s tournament at Palm Harbor High School.

Durant also suffered a pair of losses earlier this season, 7-4 to Plant and 9-5 to Bloomingdale, respectively. But the Cougars are finding positives in the early-season defeats.

“I think it did us a little bit of good to have some losses up front to knock any of the greediness out of us. It allowed us to be humble,” Carter said.  “We realized that we can be beat, anybody can be beat, anybody can win. You have to put your best nine out there and go.”

Senior catcher Alyssa Colding and senior pitcher Paige Davis are among the best of the starting nine.  When Colding and Davis are playing to their abilities and the rest of the team is healthy and in uniform, Durant is one of the most-feared teams in the area. Playing mostly back-ups, DHS still mercy-ruled Brandon in the teams’ game March 5.

With a load of seniors of Durant’s caliber, the biggest issue might not be in this season, but next. Carter said because of the talent of his pitcher-catcher combo, the Cougars haven’t been able to develop younger players to fill those pivotal rolls. But against Brandon, pitcher Bayli Johns and catcher Josey Hampton impressed in their opportunity to play in the lopsided win.

This not only sets up next season, but shows just how deep Durant’s roster is. With all those factors considered, the Cougars are set up to avoid the struggles from earlier this season and make another long run in the post season.

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