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SPRING HILL — Durant pitcher Emilio Ogando was nearing 120 on his pitch count.
The hard-throwing left-hander had just given up a two-out double to Springstead’s Ryan Nicoll in the seventh inning.
Cougars coach Butch Valdes ambled out of the dugout, seemingly to yank his starting pitcher with only one out to go.
Ogando, though, wasn’t about to exit the game.
After a brief conference on the mound, Valdes, a renewed confidence in his pitcher, stayed with Ogando, and the manager’s faith was rewarded.
Ogando got Blake Laferty to line out to shortstop to cap a complete-game shutout that led Durant to a 2-0 win in a Class 5A region quarterfinal.
“I just needed to slow him down,” Valdes said of his late-game meeting with Ogando. “I asked him if he was ready to finish it, and he said, 'Yes sir.’ I told him, 'The boys are right behind you to take care of you’ and let him go.”
Ogando battled with runners in scoring position in six of seven innings but escaped each time.
The Eagles’ best chance to score off Ogando came in the fourth inning with runners on the corners and nobody out.
Springstead tried to bring a run home on a squeeze play, but Trey Scott couldn’t get his bat on a curveball, and Bobby Pasarela was caught in a rundown between third base and home, killing the threat.
The Eagles (17-11) also had two runners aboard with nobody out in the third but couldn’t convert.
“When we got on base, (Ogando) made some big pitches to get out of it,” Eagles coach Frank Vitale said. “We had a couple opportunities to get back in the game and couldn’t take advantage.”
Durant (16-9) scored the only run it would need in the first inning after Eric Swartz led off the game with a walk against starting pitcher Bobby Pasarela and crossed the plate on Tyler Danish’s RBI double to the fence.
The Cougars got another run in the fifth after Jacob Burgess walked to start the inning and was brought home by Caleb Jordan’s run-scoring single.
As for Ogando, he seemed to get stronger as the game progressed. In the fifth, he retired the Eagles in order for the first time. He gave up a one-out single in the sixth and a two-out double in the seventh but settled down to preserve the shutout.
“I just kept taking a deep breath whenever I got in trouble and tried to focus on locating my pitches,” Ogando said.
The senior allowed just five hits and struck out 12. Pasarela was nearly as effective for Springstead, striking out nine and giving up four hits, but was done in by two leadoff walks, his only free passes of the game.