In a game that took 10 innings to find a winner, the Cougars were ultimately able to claim the regional quarterfinal victory over the Ravens.
After claiming their second consecutive district championship with a narrow 2-1 win over Newsome the week before, Durant advanced to the regional quarterfinals where they played host to a fellow district champion in 18-8 Alonso — with the Cougars ultimately outlasting the Ravens in a 10-inning contest to take the 2-1 victory in walk-off fashion.
To open the game, Durant sent their ace to the mound in junior Blaine Rowland. Entering the evening on an incredible run, Rowland had allowed just one earned run over his last 33.2 innings across eight appearances dating back to March 21. After inducing a slow ground ball to shortstop for the first out of the game, Rowland allowed his first baserunner of the game with a walk to Alonso’s second hitter before bouncing right back with a strikeout and a fly out to left to end the top of the first.
In the bottom of the first, Durant’s first two hitters were quickly retired on a pair of ground outs to the Alonso middle infielders before senior catcher Dylan LaPointe ripped a double down the left field line. Junior Tyler MacPheron entered the game as LaPointe’s courtesy runner but would move no further as the Ravens notched a strikeout to end the two-out threat.
Both sides were put away in order in the second before Alonso mounted their first scoring opportunity in the third. After a strikeout opened the inning, the Ravens quickly found themselves with runners on first and second with just one out following a pair of base hits to right field. A slow ground ball to senior Aidan Welsh at third was fielded and thrown on to second for the fielder’s choice out there, but Alonso was still in business with runners on the corners and two down. But with the go-ahead run just 90 feet away, Alonso was unable to capitalize as Rowland notched his third strikeout in as many innings with an off speed pitch in the dirt that baited a desperate swing and ended the top of the third.
Durant put their leadoff hitter aboard in the bottom of the frame as sophomore Brantley Hayward turned on a hard ground ball back up the middle and off of the Ravens’ pitcher. On an attempted hit-and-run in the next at bat, it came on a pitch that was low and outside – swung on and missed, subsequently leading to Hayward being thrown out trying to steal second for the first out of the inning. The next two Durant hitters were retired in order and the game remained scoreless heading into the fourth, where Alonso broke through first.
The Ravens wasted no time putting a threat aboard in the top of the fifth with a leadoff double roped to the fence in left. Rowland remained composed and nearly escaped the jam with a pair of fly outs to left field from the next two Alonso batters, keeping the runner at second and leaving himself just one out away from escaping the inning unscathed, but a base hit to left field scored the run from second and gave the Ravens a 1-0 lead.
A weak fly out to first then marked the first out in the bottom of the fourth for Durant before LaPointe rolled over a hard ground ball to second base that allowed him to reach safely on an errant throw to first, but a 5-4-3 double play ended the inning. Rowland then worked through the top of the fifth, allowing a leadoff base hit before leaving him stranded at first with three straight outs, and the Cougars were finally able to answer in the bottom half. Rowland opened the bottom of the fifth with a base hit up the middle and sophomore Dylan Hotz entered in his place as a courtesy runner. A sacrifice bunt from junior Pete Oderio moved Hotz up to second and a rocket of a ground ball off the bat of senior Gavin Florio knotted up the contest at 1-1 as it took a wicked hop past the Alonso shortstop and into left field, allowing Hotz to come around and score from second.
Alonso put their leadoff runner aboard with a looping base hit to right in the top of the sixth before Rowland made a heads up play for the first out, fielding the ensuing bunt and firing to second to nab the lead runner at second. A pair of strikeouts ended the frame and brought Durant back in to hit, looking to take their first lead of the contest. The Cougars were able to put just one runner on with a walk from LaPointe but were unable to bring him around and both pitchers worked a perfect seventh to take the contest into extra innings.
Alonso worked one runner on in the eighth with a two-out walk, but Rowland’s 11th strikeout of the game ended the top of the frame. And in the bottom of the ninth, after a long at bat to lead off the bottom of the inning, junior Nick April-Gath ripped a line drive up the right field line and was off to the races – dashing around first base and toward second for what would have been a sure triple to lead off the inning if not for a ruling from the first base umpire that declared his would-be extra base hit a foul ball. April-Gath was then retired with a fly ball to shortstop and Alonso was able to retire the side with two more fly outs.
Florio took the mound for Durant in the top of the ninth and immediately faced adversity as a base hit to left field put the leadoff hitter aboard for Alonso. A sacrifice bunt, fielded and taken on to first by Florio himself, moved the runner up to second and a walk put runners on first and second with just one out. But despite the threat, Florio escaped the jam with a strikeout and a fly out to LaPointe behind the plate.
A high fly ball down the left field line from junior Noah Morales fell between three converging Alonso defenders in the bottom of the ninth, allowing him to lead off the inning with a single, but he would be left stranded. And in the top of the 10th, Florio would notch two quick outs before putting a runner aboard with a hit by pitch – but that would be all as a fly out to shortstop moved the contest to the bottom of the 10th.
After Florio took the count full to lead off the Cougars’ half of the 10th, he would reach safely on a hit by pitch – with Hotz once again entering as a pinch runner. Hotz would move up to second on a sacrifice bunt from Hayward and the winning run was now in scoring position with just one out. With a two strike count in the next at bat Hotz took off to steal third. A swing and a miss at the plate marked the second out of the inning but the ensuing throw down to third sailed high and over the glove of Alonso’s leaping third baseman, allowing Hotz to come all the way around to score and move Durant on to the regional semifinals with a walk-off victory.
On the same night, Plant City fell to 14-13 on the year as they saw their season end in the regional quarterfinals with a 7-0 loss to Sickles. And with a win over Alonso, Durant advanced to the regional semifinals this past weekend where a 10-4 loss at the hands of Windermere marked an end to their playoff run — officially finishing their season with a record of 20-6.