EAST LAKE -
An ace from Durant crossed up East Lake once again.
Last year the Eagles met Trey Oest in the Class 8A region quarterfinals, were two-hit and lost 3-0. This year it was Tyler Danish shutting out East Lake in two-hit fashion during a 3-0 semifinal win.
Danish, a University of Florida commit and highly touted professional prospect, lived up to the hype of his 0.00 ERA on Tuesday by striking out 14 en route to his seventh complete-game shutout of the season.
“If I get in a rhythm, it's lights out,” the senior said. “I struggled a little bit, I got my mechanics out of whack a little bit, but I settled down and went right back at them.”
Both East Lake hits came off the bat of second baseman Doug Rovello and the Eagles managed to work three walks out of Danish, but the hard-throwing righty's low arm slot and unorthodox delivery kept home-team hitters off-balance all night.
“Doug Rovello's kind of the heart and soul of our team,” East Lake coach Dan Genna said of his senior infielder's two-hit performance. “He had a good game, but we just kind of ran into a buzz saw.”
“That was just a good pitcher,” Rovello said about facing Danish. “His ball comes in on you, so I was just trying to see the ball come in and get the best swing I could on it. I think if we play them two out of three we have a shot, but he's a great pitcher.”
Not to be lost in the wake of Danish's gem is the job turned in by East Lake's pitching duo of starter Ryan Wall and reliever Brad Deppermann.
While Eagles hitters struggled to get even a piece of balls hurled by Danish, Durant's lineup couldn't quite square anything up against Wall and Deppermann. The Cougars recorded only four singles and three free passes all night, but they also took full advantage of a couple costly East Lake mistakes.
After being no-hit by Wall through four innings, Durant strung together a three-hit, one-run top of the fifth to take a 1-0 lead. Paxton Sims' bloop single to shallow right field gave the Cougars runners at first and second and leadoff hitter Garrett Wright delivered the run-scoring hit to left.
“This year it's been if I get one run the game's over,” Danish said of grabbing the slim lead. “Garrett's had great at bats all year and that's what he does. It was a big turning point in the game.”
Durant (23-5) tacked on two unearned insurance runs in the sixth with Deppermann in on relief of Wall, but Danish already had all the backing he would need.
“When we get one run, the confidence just jumps through the sky,” Durant coach Butch Valdes said. “Once [Danish] sees that “1” up there – and the team will fight to get it – he'll take care of the rest.”
“We come into the game obviously trying to score as many runs as we can, but we know once we get that first one a ton of pressure's taken off our shoulders,” Wright said of the team's mindset after coming through with hits like his in the fifth. “We can kind of put it on T's back and he's able to do what he can do and handle it.”
Despite having little to work with offensively, East Lake (24-4) was not without its opportunities Tuesday.
The biggest of those chances came in the sixth when the Eagles put runners at second and third with two down. Rovello started the rally with an infield single into the hole at short. Catcher Grant Hodges followed with a slow roller to the left side of the mound that Danish fielded but threw away at first. Rovello wouldn't advance any farther, though, as Danish quickly atoned for his error with a three-pitch strikeout.
“Danish is as good as it gets,” Genna said. “He's probably the best pitcher I've ever coached against, but we had a great season. I'm not going to harp on one loss but they're a good team. We'll root 'em on and hope they go pretty far.”
Durant's win allows the Cougars to host Friday night's region final against Orlando Timber Creek (21-8). The Wolves topped Winter Park on Tuesday, 4-2.
DHS - 000 012 0 --- 3-4-1
EL - 000 000 0 --- 0-2-3
WP – Tyler Danish
LP – Ryan Wall