By Tamas Mondovics
With a 6-1 victory over the Orlando Timber Creek Wolves in the Class 8A-Region 2 final, Cougars (24-5) baseball led by program head coach, Butch Valdes, earned the school’s first-ever berth in the state semi-finals.
Keeping the momentum alive, Durant first defeated American High School, and with a 6-0 victory advanced to its first state championship game to face off three-time state champion Lake Brantley at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers.
Unfortunately, the Patriots proved to be a bit stronger in its offense and secured its fourth FHSAA Class 8A state championship with an 8-3 victory over the Cougars.
Durant managed to score three runs in the fourth and fifth innings, but could not put any more hits on the board.
Of course, being the runner-up for a program that began the season with the loss of 11 of its seniors, the Durant baseball program made its fans and community quite proud.
Building its strategy—and the entire season—around seniors Chaz Folwer and Tyler Danish, with the support of key players like Luke Heyer and Jake Sullivan, there was little doubt of a negative outcome.
The region final home game was the Cougars third time in the schools’ history with a hope for a good fortune.
“As they say, ‘third time is the charm,” Cougars senior starter, Chaz Fowler, said just minutes before the game began, while adding that the game, although a major achievement for the program and a stepping stone to reach state, was just like any other.
“I feel great and plan on going out there and throw my game,” Fowler said. “I will take care of the first four innings and will leave the rest to my boy, Tyler.”
Fowler was referring to senior Tyler Danish, and as he said after working the first four innings, allowing one run on four hits, while striking out four, Fowler left the rest of the game up to Danish who got the victory, by striking out six while allowing one hit in three innings.
To make things a little sweeter, Danish played his last home game of his high school career, and in the bottom of the sixth, sealed it with his eighth home run of the season.
“This has been a great year for us with everyone working hard to get this far,” Valdes said as he talked about the season—his fifth with Durant—which began with the loss of 11 seniors.
As district champions and first time regional champions, the program is proud of if its success as it builds on its winning streak of 11 straight games.
Facing Danish was no small task and, at the end, proved to be too much for Timber Creek, the defending champions and a program that won two region championships in the past three years.
Danish hopes to continue with a professional baseball career or to attend USF.
For more information about Cougars baseball, visit www.c2cschools.com.