SPRING HILL — Durant coach Matt Carter put his arms around the shoulders of catcher Alyssa Colding before the start of the fifth inning.
Carter, who wears a brace on his left knee and is scheduled to have knee replacement surgery after the season, was walking to his post in the third base coach’s box when his knee gave out. He held onto Colding for support before being helped back to the Cougars’ bench, where he remained for the duration of the game.
Fortunately for the Cougars, Carter’s was the only bad wheel in the Durant dugout.
With an aggressive approach on the base paths, Durant took advantage of costly Springstead miscues to score six runs in the sixth inning and defeat the Eagles 7-1 in Tuesday’s Class 5A region quarterfinal.
The Cougars (21-8) broke open a 1-all game in a sixth inning Springstead (21-3) would just as soon forget.
Paige Davis and Olivia Cuellar singled off starting pitcher Alexis Adams to start the inning, and Brooke Freeman brought home the go-ahead run with what she called a “sneaky bunt” that hung on the first-base line but stayed fair.
Freeman aggressively swiped second as the throw from Springstead went home.
“I thought it was foul, but I just kept going,” said Freeman, a freshman.
Later in the inning, Alyssa Colding hit a grounder back to Adams, but the junior’s throw to catcher Kelsey Straquadine was not in time to get Cuellar at the plate. With Colding taking the wide turn around first, Straquadine threw to second to try to get the runner.
That’s when Freeman saw her opening and sprinted home to put Durant ahead 4-1.
“I just felt like they weren’t ready and they were all frustrated,” Freeman said. “I just went for it and took home.”
Durant kept the pressure on Springstead and scored three more times in the sixth off RBI singles from Jordan Lafave and Nikki Giovenco.
“We hadn’t really been put in a situation like that all year where we’ve had a tough string of errors and maybe a bad decision here and there,” Springstead coach Craig Swartout said.
“I think maybe it took its toll. We didn’t respond well to the adversity, and that’s solely on the head coach. I take full blame for that.”
Durant pitcher Lauren Wolfe (13-5) did the rest, limiting Springstead to one hit over the final two innings and striking out the final two Eagles batters to send the Cougars into the region semifinals.
“(Wolfe) did a great job. We expect that out of her,” Carter said. “…She’s thrown a good game every game we’ve been out there.”
Springstead scored in the first inning on a RBI single to centerfield from senior Shannon Cataldo. The Eagles’ lead held up until the fourth, when Davis singled to center to score Kelli Tidwell.
“We lose one senior, everybody else is coming back,” Swartout said. “I think these girls have gotten a taste of what could be.
“We’ll come back next year and try to finish it up.”