EAST BAY — Durant knew it would have to put together a near-perfect performance to defeat top-seeded Lakeland in the 6A-8 championship.
The Cougars, though, had hope.
In two previous meetings against Lakeland, Durant held its own against the mighty Dreadnaughts, falling 6-3 and, most recently, 4-3.
Plus, the Cougars, buoyed by a win over Sarasota in the district semifinal to end the Sailors' 16-year playoff streak, entered confident.
The opportunities were there for Durant to dethrone Lakeland, but the Cougars couldn't take advantage in a 4-1 loss.
Lakeland starting pitcher Josh Lucas no-hit Durant through five innings and finished with four strikeouts and two hits allowed.
"We made contact, but we didn't have good contact tonight," Durant coach Butch Valdes said. "(Lucas) threw the ball well, we just didn't capitalize on some of his mistakes."
Durant's only run came in the fourth when Christian Lopez reached on an error then made it to third after a pickoff throw went well wide of Dreadnaughts first baseman Tyler Prebor. Ruben Garcia brought Lopez home on a sacrifice fly.
The Cougars (13-12), however, squandered an opportunity to rally in the sixth. Garcia and Brad Sabourin singled back-to-back to break up Lucas' no-hit bid. With runners on first and third and one out, Trey Oest hit into an inning-ending double play that effectively ended Durant's chances of capturing its first district title since 2001.
"That was a big key right there," Valdes said. "That could have been the turn of the ball game. They made the plays and made it happen. They got the 'W' for it."
Lakeland (23-2) scored a run in the second and two more in the third to open a 3-0 lead.
Durant starter Adam Albers gave up runs but kept Lakeland from exploding for a big inning. He went the distance and surrendered six hits while striking out two.