By Lily Belcher
After a playoff-worthy season where coaches, seniors, and underclassmen all had their own individual highlights, the Durant High School baseball team concluded the 2021 season with a 1-0 loss to Spruce Creek High School in the Class 7A FHSAA state semifinals.
“It was a huge accomplishment, especially [after] losing one of our seniors early on in the season to an injury,” said Coach Ulysses Valdes, “so it was huge to get that far and to be in the final four in the state of Florida.”
The game went to eight innings (one inning over regulation for high school games) after remaining scoreless through the seven and 1/3 innings thrown by senior and starting pitcher Sean Hermann. Valdes has praised Hermann’s performance throughout his final season as a Durant Cougar, but his performance in the semifinals was the icing on the cake to close out Hermann’s senior year.
The righty threw a scoreless game and was only pulled after he reached 105 pitches, the maximum number of pitches allowed for high school pitchers. He gave up only four hits and struck out nine batters, giving him a season total of 135 strikeouts and a .36 ERA.
Valdes also credited Durant’s performance to sophomore shortstop Aidan Welsh, who had a solid defensive game, and junior Oscar Fernandez, who hit a double in the eighth.
“Oscar Fernandez, my junior, had a big key hit, but a lot of the players did very well,” said Valdes.
Durant’s other two hits were singles from senior Austin Sewell and freshman Carlos Morales.
“The best part of the season was being able to go back and beating a team that posed a big problem with us, [Riverview High School], going back to their house and beating them pretty bad to show that we were still in the fight,” Valdes said, referring to the playoff 7-0 win against Riverview Sarasota.
After this season’s accomplishments, Valdes is looking forward to next season.
“We are going to go back to work. We’re going to start this summer,” Valdes said about their off-season preparation. “We have a lot of young guys coming back [and] we’re going to look for a few more guys to fill the holes of all 14 seniors. It’s going to be an uphill battle, but we have a lot of young pups to do it.”