Just one night before the Durant baseball team punched its ticket back to the FHSAA state championships, the school’s softball team’s great run of 2021 came to an end in the Class 6A-Region 2 finals.
Armed with one of the brightest green lights in softball, the free-swinging Viera Hawks put up a fight against the Cougars’ pitching staff and left the high school on May 14 with a 5-0 win and a championship trophy to show for it. Viera batters got six hits and all five runs (four earned) off of pitcher Haleigh Thomas in her 5.1 innings of work. Viera broke open the scoring with two runs in the top of the fourth inning and added all the insurance it needed with three more runs in the top of the sixth.
Thomas entered the game having just thrown 105 pitches in the Cougars’ 2-1 win over Bartow three nights earlier and finished with a count of 97 before Allie Hughes entered the game in relief. She did strike out eight Hawks and didn’t give up any walks, but Viera’s ability to make contact paid off for the road team down the stretch. In one of the most unusual events of the game, Viera’s Jayce Jackson hit 17 foul balls in a 20-pitch at-bat in the top of the fourth inning.
Durant picked up a total of three hits (Shelby Allen, Emily Smith and Amy Bak) and two walks (Kenzington Marsh) throughout the game. The offense came close to finding its usual spark in the bottom of the third inning, when Allen hit a two-out single to get on base and then stole second just before Marsh was intentionally walked. Rylee Trice nearly reached when a play in center field to catch her fly ball ended in a collision between outfielders, but the ball was still caught to end the inning.
With the loss, Durant finished the spring 2021 season with an 18-3 (4-0 district) record and a strong 214-54 scoring differential. The underclassman-heavy unit hit .402 as a team, smacked 15 home runs, swiped 57 bases and hit a whopping 50 doubles. Thomas ended an extremely productive junior season with a 2.01 ERA and 105 strikeouts against just 11 walks through 69.2 innings of work, picking up eight of the team’s 18 wins.
Cougar fans should be excited for next season, as this team will only lose five seniors to graduation and should keep much of its core intact for 2022.