SEFFNER — Eleven days ago, Durant pitcher Cameron Ellis watched Armwood play Bloomingdale, mentally dissecting the Hawks hitters from his vantage point down the rightfield line.
"I did a little studying up on them," Ellis said.
And Wednesday night Ellis showed the extra work paid off, throwing a complete-game, four-hit 1-0 shutout against the district rival Hawks.
The senior left-hander earned his second win against Armwood this season while improving to 6-0, keeping hitters off balance with fastballs and breaking pitches.
"He's been doing that all season long for us," Durant coach Butch Valdes said. "He's stepped up and been the senior leader we knew he could be."
And with the win Durant (9-5, 8-2 Class 5A-8) took control of first place in the district race with just two league games to go.
It marked the first time Armwood (10-6, 7-3) has been shut out in more than three years — it last lost to Wharton 2-0 on March 27, 2007.
"I just don't think our hitters took the right approach," Armwood coach Mike Wrenn said. "We tried to pull everything on him instead of going up the middle. We probably could have done a better job of that tonight. We just need to keep pushing no matter what happens."
But credit Ellis, who hasn't allowed an earned run in his past four outings, a span of 21 innings. His season ERA is 0.73.
"I know most of the hitters because I've played with them before," said Ellis, who played summer ball with several Armwood players. "I know their weaknesses and I aimed for their weaknesses tonight. I knew I had to come in and fire some fastballs and mix it up a little bit."
He definitely kept the Hawks at bay. No Armwood runner reached second after the second inning.
Armwood pitcher Zack Powers, who left the mound after feeling tightness in his arm after five innings, was nearly as good. Three of the five hits Powers allowed were infield singles, and Durant designated hitter Spencer Moore's RBI ground out in the fourth produced the only run.
CC Catholic 8, Tampa Catholic 7 (8 inn.): The winners bracket game in the Dunedin Invitational between bitter rivals Clearwater Central Catholic and Tampa Catholic sounded quiet.
The anxiety on the Marauders' side was validated when the Crusaders scored in the fifth inning to tie the game and eventually send it into extra innings. And then it was broken on Ray Fox's two-run double in the eighth.
That blast helped CCC beat TC in a rematch of last year's tournament final that the Crusaders won. For Tampa Catholic, ranked 11th in the nation in the latest ESPN Rise poll, it was the first loss to a district opponent this season.
Bob Putnam, Times staff writer