The Cougars shut out the Spartans by way of a 6-0 final to move to 2-1 on the season.
After opening the season with a 4-2 loss against a strong Plant team, Durant baseball notched their first win of the season with a 13-0 victory over Brandon last Thursday. On Tuesday, they moved to 2-1 with a 6-0 shutout win over Spoto.
Junior Nick April-Gath got the start for the Cougars as he took the mound in the top of the first, making quick work of Spoto’s first three hitters as he induced two soft ground outs and a fly out to open the contest and bring Durant in for the bottom of the frame.
While the Cougars were held without a baserunner in their first at bat, April-Gath once again worked through the second without trouble as he started the inning with a pair of ground outs before notching his first strikeout of the contest.
Durant broke through in the bottom of the frame as junior Blaine Rowland kickstarted the rally with a one-out walk, followed by a base hit from Jeremy Ortiz to give the Cougars runners on first and third. Junior Pete Oderio then followed up the pair of hits with one of his own, a single to left field, driving home Rowland and giving Durant a 1-0 lead. With runners once again at first and third, junior Tyler MacPherson rolled a ground ball to shortstop — what initially looked like it would result in an inning-ending double play — but the throw to first pulled the first baseman off the bag allowing a second run to come across to score.
By the third, April-Gath was in rhythm and cruising on the mound as he struck out the side to end his night. The Cougars were held scoreless in the bottom of the frame and Durant turned to sophomore Jack Brooks in the fourth, striking out the side himself.
In the bottom of the fourth Rowland once again came up with another big at bat as he launched a triple into the right center gap, driven home on a sac fly from Ortiz on the next pitch to give Durant a 3-0 lead. Brooks allowed two baserunners in the top of the fifth but worked out of the jam easily with a ground ball double play to escape the threat and senior catcher Dylan LaPointe tacked on another run for the Cougars in the bottom of the fifth when a massive triple to deep straightaway centerfield led to a run as the throw to third got away from the Spoto third baseman, allowing him to trot home with ease. Brooks allowed a leadoff single in the sixth, followed by a walk to put runners on first and second with no outs, but he once again battled back by inducing a flyout to center and another inning-ending double play.
Durant tacked on two more in the bottom of the frame as Oderio reached on a walk and eventually came all the way around to score on an error in the outfield from Spoto, followed by an RBI single from MacPherson. And in the seventh, Durant turned to another sophomore in Lonnie Coburn to close the contest, throwing a perfect inning with three strikeouts to seal the 6-0 victory for the Cougars.
While Spoto was able to string a few hits together here and there, they were never much of a threat for the Cougars, allowing Durant to get their bats going before a major matchup against Gaither on Thursday.
“Any time you play against (Gaither head coach Nelson North) he’s prepared, so it’s going to be a tough one,” Durant head coach Butch Valdes said. “It’s a good test, especially getting ready for Plant City after them, then going right into Sickles and the Saladino Tournament, so this is where everything starts rolling. Spoto was decent, they swung the bat well, so it was a nice warm up.”
But arguably more importantly than getting the offense in form was the way the Cougars were able to utilize their pitching in the matchup, turning to April-Gath and a pair of sophomores in Brooks and Coburn for a scoreless contest that in-turn allows them to enter Thursday’s cross-county game with Rowland, senior Preston Rogers and senior Gavin Florio — the Cougars’ top three arms — all well-rested.
“That’s what we’ve been counting on,” Valdes said. “We’re deep on the pitching staff so games like these are important where we can get with those guys, they can throw and keep us in the game, we can score a few runs. It’s huge to have all three of the horses ready to go on Thursday.”