PLANT CITY — Durant had everyone in Plant City Stadium on their feet as the Cougars put together a stirring extra-inning rally, scoring three runs in the 10th inning Friday against Palm Beach Gardens.
It turned out to be one run too little.
The Cougars had the tying and go-ahead runners on in the final inning, but the comeback fell short as Palm Beach Gardens advanced to the Class 6A state title game with a 5-4 win.
"This was by far the best game of the tournament," Durant coach Matt Carter said. "The girls fought and fought and had a whole lot of fun. And that's what this game is all about."
After a tight pitcher's duel for nine innings, the Gators piled on four runs in the top of the 10th on one hit, two errors, a hit batter, a passed ball and two safety squeezes. The Cougars finished with an uncharacteristic five errors on the night.
"Some of the errors were just inexcusable," Carter said.
But Durant refused to give in. The Cougars loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the inning, and Brittany Harwell unloaded them with a double into the left-centerfield gap to make it 5-4. But with the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters coming up, the Cougars elected not to bunt, and both made outs, leaving Harwell at second.
"(Bunting) hadn't been working all night, so we didn't," Carter said. "You got to go with what works."
Kristen Jones then laced a single to leftfield, but Carter held Harwell at third.
"No, (in hindsight) I wouldn't have sent (Harwell)," Carter said. "There was no reason to make the third out at home."
With runners on the corners, Brandi Regan then worked the count full before fanning on a Brittany Bowles sinker, the pitcher's 15th strikeout of the night.
Durant squandered a number of chances late. The Cougars had first and second with no one out in the sixth but couldn't capitalize, then left another runner stranded in the seventh.
But their best chance at ending it came in the bottom of the eighth. After a Kelsey Horton double and a walk to Erika Wetherington, Kelly Jones blooped a one-out single to centerfield.
"Kelsey had to hold up to see if the hit fell," Carter said. "There was no way she was making (it home) on that one."
Scoring runs didn't look like it would be a problem for the Cougars in the first. Jones led off with a single, and a pair of walks — with a strikeout sandwiched in between — loaded the bases. After another strikeout, Jones ran the count full before taking ball four for a 1-0 Durant lead.
Palm Beach Gardens tied it in the fourth. Brittany Human reached on an error and moved to second on an Emily Roesch single. Kelsey Hensel then drove in Human with a single to left.
Durant finished 25-6.