CLEARWATER — Cleanup hitter Kelsey Horton was all ready to get a hit. She had been foiled in three previous at-bats, and with runners on second and third in the ninth inning of a tied game, it was time.
Looking to drive something hard, the power-hitting Horton settled for laying down something soft. Her bunt traveled about 6 feet, but caught Countryside by surprise, scoring the lead run as Durant went on to beat the Cougars 4-2 Friday night.
As it had against Gaither earlier this week, Durant (24-5) used small ball to nick Countryside (23-5) to a season-ending defeat.
It was a 1-all game and Countryside freshman pitcher Alyssa Bache had retired 14 straight batters before Brandi Regan reached on a bunt single in the ninth inning. Sara DeMuth, who struck out her previous three at-bats, singled to rightfield and took second on the throw to third, which was late.
Countryside coach Kaylyn Bayly said Bache was trying to walk Horton by keeping the ball outside, but the shortstop reached out and put down a perfect bunt that inched down the first base line.
"The first pitch was off the plate and not the one I wanted, and then I got the bunt sign,." Horton said. "They were definitely not expecting it."
An error by Countryside on the next play let in another run, and a Kelly Jones bunt scored another to make it 4-1.
Countryside rallied in the bottom of the inning, scoring once and putting two runners in with one out. But DeMuth got the No. 3 hitter to pop up to second and the cleanup hitter to ground one right to her for the final out.