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6A-8 baseball: Lopez makes diving catch to keep Durant alive

GIBSONTON — Durant needed every inch to end one of the state's longest baseball postseason streaks.

Just ask Cougars senior second baseman Christian Lopez.

Facing perennial power Sarasota in Tuesday's Class 6A-8 semifinals at East Bay, the third-seeded Cougars clung to a two-run lead — albeit with two in scoring position — down to the Sailors' last strike.

That's when Sarasota No. 9 hitter Sean Hurley hit a shot up the middle destined for centerfield, but the 5-foot-9 Lopez ranged to his right and made a lunging, backhanded stop to preserve a 7-5 Durant victory.

"Our coach always says to go to your belly to make the play," said Lopez, the front of his jersey full of dirt. "I knew from the get-go I'd have to dive to get it, and that's what I did."

The Cougars will face top-seeded Lakeland in Thursday's district championship.

In the postgame huddle, first-year Durant coach Butch Valdes told his team what it had just accomplished. The Cougars, who clinched a region tournament berth with the win, also kept Sarasota out of regionals for the first time since 1992.

Lopez, given the game ball for his game-saving play, then gave the ball back to his coach.

"They battled all the time," Valdes said. "They're a hell of a good team. Our young guys and our older guys stepped up. I'll chalk this up as a good win. We were in every ball game this year. No one slammed the door on us."

Durant (13-11) took a 5-0 lead following a four-run top of the third that was highlighted by senior Brad Sabourin's three-run homer to left. But Sarasota (19-7) cut the lead to 6-5 in the sixth after run-scoring hits by Eric Williams and Scooter Gennett.

But Cougars starter Austin Buck gave a gritty, complete-game effort. Despite allowing 11 hits, the senior left-hander got the outs when he needed them. He stranded eight in scoring position, including runners at second and third in the sixth and seventh innings.

"I just knew he had some left in him," Valdes said.

Durant No. 9 hitter Greg Ibarra was 3-for-3, while Trey Oest, Jake Burgess, Sabourin and Lopez each had two hits each.

6A-8 baseball: Lopez makes diving catch to keep Durant alive 04/29/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 12:42am]
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