PLANT CITY — In every other nook of the nation Thursday, March Madness commenced. At Durant High, it simply carried over.
The Cougars (10-5, 4-2), who rallied in four of their final six games en route to the 2012 Class 8A state title, have replicated the feat twice in the past 48 hours.
The latest dramatics came courtesy of junior Kelli Tidwell. Hitless in her first three at-bats, Tidwell smacked the first pitch of the bottom of the eighth — a Nikki Misner screwball — over the left-centerfield fence for a 3-2 triumph against district foe Plant.
“You’ve got to give credit where credit is due,” said Panthers coach Melissa Sigmon, whose club (10-5, 3-3) entered on a five-game win streak, mainly on the strength of Misner’s arm. “It was a great hit.”
Durant, which rallied for a 4-3 win Tuesday against Wharton on Madi Taylor’s sixth-inning, two-run double, has won four 8A, District 7 games in a row. And while the Cardiac Cougars may never fully recreate the magic of last spring, they’re doing a darned striking simulation.
“We’re not fully together yet, we’re slowly getting there,” said centerfielder Shannon Bell, who provided the night’s web gem with a diving left-handed snag of a Samantha Lastres pop fly. “Definitely these last two games have made us better and stronger as a team.”
Plant took a 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth on three hits, the last of which was designated hitter Caroline Jinks’ two-out, two-run single.
Durant tied things in the bottom of the inning on Taylor’s RBI-triple down the rightfield line, and a two-base infield error that scored Madison Farrell.
The Cougars had a runner at third with two out in the bottom of the seventh when rightfielder Lexi Kantor made a basket catch of a high Paige Davis pop-up in foul territory. Davis pitched a scoreless eighth, setting up Tidwell’s winner.
“I was just trying to get on base because I knew we needed baserunners, so I just went up looking for a base hit,” Tidwell said. “Coach (Matt Carter) told me to hit a line shot somewhere deep in the gap hard.”