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State baseball: Danish does what Danish does best for Durant

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Fri. May 17, 2013 | Joel Anderson

State baseball: Danish does what Danish does best for Durant

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FORT MYERS — Those scouting reports revealed only so much. Phoning up coaching friends elicited all of the predictable acclaim.

And the statistics — essentially, lots of zeroes — only confirmed the extent of the challenge.

But within a few innings Friday, Hialeah American coach Ricky Gutierrez came to understand what most other teams learned earlier in the season: There is no stopping Durant senior Tyler Danish.

“My guys had a pretty good idea of what to expect,” Gutierrez said. “But he’s a freak and he showed it today. He does it all.”
Danish turned the Class 8A semifinal into another showcase for his two-way brilliance, throwing a one-hit shutout and crushing a two-run homer over the replica Green Monster in the Cougars’ 6-0 victory at JetBlue Park.

They’ll face Lake Brantley, a 4-0 winner over Venice, in the title game Saturday.

In their first final four appearance, the Cougars (25-5) continued their dominant season-closing run en route to their 12th consecutive win. They also collected their 13th shutout of the year, eight of them thrown by the UF-bound (or, increasingly, high MLB draft prospect) right-hander.

With Danish leading the way, Durant shook off early nerves and turned the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox into its own playground — replete with its own boisterous cheering section.

“Started from the country,” bellowed one Cougars fan, mimicking a popular song from hip-hop star Drake, “now we’re here.”

It was obvious Durant was going to place its championship hopes in the hands of Danish, who had won 14 of 15 previous starts and hadn’t allowed an earned run in 86 innings before Friday.

Gutierrez, a former major-league shortstop for 12 years, said he did all he could to prepare his team — which had a batting average of .362 — for Danish. He read all the scouting reports, called several coaches whose teams faced Danish previously and told his own team to hang in there.

It was to no avail.

“We knew they had good bats. But we also knew they hadn’t seen Tyler,” Durant coach Butch Valdes said. “We saw their heads drop as soon as he got out there and (the ball) started moving around.”

Danish retired the first six hitters, striking out four of them. Then he came to up to bat in the top of the third, with freshman catcher Jake Sullivan on first after a two-out single.

He responded with a towering shot over the replica Green Monster in leftfield, which is actually  3 feet higher than the one in Boston. His homer was also the first by any player in the tournament.

“It was probably one of my most memorable home runs,” said Danish, who extended his school record to nine. “I couldn’t ask for anything better. It was huge to go up 2-0.”

Though Gutierrez several times referred to the Cougars as a “one-man band,” they also received notable efforts from Paxton Sims (3-for-4 with 2 RBIs), Chaz Fowler (2-for-4) and Luke Heyer (1-for-2 with two walks and two runs).

“It’s irritating,” Sims said. “But if they want to call us that and we win a state championship, then that’s fine.”

American (21-9) didn’t get its first hit until the fourth, a two-out single by Kendrick Gutierrez, the 6-foot-4 coach’s son who entered Friday batting .514.

By the end, down only 4-0 in the seventh, Gutierrez brought in senior reserves in recognition that mounting a rally against Danish was improbable.

Danish went on to retire the final 10 batters, finishing with nine strikeouts and one walk in his 84-pitch masterpiece.

“They shut it down,” Valdes said of American. “We’ve seen it happen before.”

State baseball
Where: JetBlue Park, Fort Myers
Admission: $9, parking is $8
8A final: Durant vs. Lake Brantley, 7:35 p.m. Saturday
TV: BHSN; the game will also be live-streamed at fhsaa.org.

Joel Anderson can be reached at janderson@tampabay.com or on Twitter @jdhometeam.

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