The latest chapter in Durant-Strawberry Crest matchup history was one of the most thrilling yet.
A battle between two 11-win teams had everyone on both sides at Crest’s baseball field biting their nails for more than three hours as the Cougars and Chargers put together an offense-heavy classic. This one was Durant’s to win, 7-5, in 10 innings.
Crest got the party started in the third inning by scoring on two passed balls in three plate appearances. After a double by starting pitcher Colby Fanning, Lance Highsmith scored from third on a passed ball with Arjun Nimmala at bat to end the scoring drought. After Nimmala was struck out by Durant’s Sean Hermann, Fanning scored the second run of the game on a passed ball with Ethan Pues in the batter’s box.
After two innings and four total players reaching base, Durant shifted the momentum in its favor in the top of the sixth. Facing two outs, Austin Sewell ripped a pitch into left field to get on base and Javy Quintana’s single then put him on second. Dylan LaPointe smacked a double that scored both Cougars and tied the game at 2-2. Luke Richardson then came in to relieve Fanning. Courtesy runner Sean Pikulski reached third on a wild pitch during Carlos Morales’ at-bat — which ended with a walk — and Nick April-Gath gave Durant the 3-2 lead with an RBI single to score Pikulski. Both Morales and April-Gath advanced on an error during Aidan Welsh’s at-bat and Welsh gave the Cougars some more insurance with a two-run double of his own.
But the Chargers weren’t ready to give up. In the bottom of the sixth, Crest immediately loaded the bases with Pues’ walk, Zach Redner getting hit by a pitch and Alex Mussenden hitting a single. Pues scored on a wild pitch with no outs and Ray Allen Vasquez at bat, and a fielding error after Vasquez got a hit led to Redner pulling the Chargers within one run of the tie. Mussenden got Crest there by scoring on a wild pitch with Cristian Bolt batting.
Redner came in to pitch in the top of the seventh inning and struck out two of the five Cougars he faced. The Chargers did manage to load the bases in the bottom of the seventh with one out, but Hermann got Mussenden to strike out looking and reliever Zander Fisk got Vasquez to go down swinging to keep the Cougars alive.
The most either offense could do in the eighth and ninth innings was Fanning reaching base on an error, then stealing second base with two outs. But the 10th inning was just what Durant needed.
Things got dicey for the Cougars when Sewell struck out to start the inning and Quintana, who drew a walk, was caught trying to steal third base. LaPointe drew a walk and the Durant bats suddenly got hot again. Brett Martin regained the lead for the Cougars with an RBI double and the final score was set at 7-5 with a fielding error that gave Martin enough time to run home. Fisk induced three consecutive outs in the bottom of the 10th to put the game away.
Durant improved to 12-3 (2-1 district) with the win and is now on a three-game win streak with at least seven runs scored per outing. The Cougars are on the road again tonight at Lennard (4-5; 0-1 district as of press time) for a 7 p.m. district game. Durant has already faced the Longhorns twice this season and won both games: first was a 3-1 win at Durant on Feb. 5, then a 5-3 score on March 15 during the Saladino Tournament. After coming out on the losing end of a wild 21-11 box score against Sickles at the end of the Saladino Tournament, the Longhorns picked up a pair of big wins against Sumner (12-1) and East Bay (4-0) on March 23 and 26. They also hosted Riverview on Wednesday night, but results from that game were not available at press time.
The Chargers fell to 11-4 (4-1 district) overall and have lost four of their last five games. They’ll look to turn things around with another 7 p.m. home game tonight, this time against Plant (6-10; 2-4 district). The Panthers followed up a rocky 1-8 start by winning five of their seven games since March 15, but they took a 5-4 loss at Alonso on Tuesday night — ending a two-game win streak — and already have history with Crest in the form of a 6-1 Chargers win in Tampa on March 5.