TAMPA — The old adage states it's tough to beat a team three times in one season. Thursday, it proved spot on.
Durant's bats stayed hot as the No. 3 seed avenged a pair of regular-season losses and defeated top-seeded Plant City 11-0 in the Class 7A, District 7 final shortened to five innings due to the run rule.
"I know I didn't expect 11-0," said Sloan Hammons, the Cougars' freshman righty who surrendered just two singles, struck out four and did not allow a runner past second. "But the way we were playing, it seemed like (Plant City) kind of gave up once we started hitting and hitting."
It was the Cougars' third straight district title.
"We've been working real hard on adjustments, and the kids did a good job of that tonight," Durant coach Matt Carter said. "Trust me. We didn't lose the first two on purpose."
After collecting 16 hits in Wednesday's 10-6 win against Strawberry Crest, Durant (18-8) had 15 against Plant City (18-6).
"I think we were still kind of high from (the Strawberry Crest) game," Hammons said. "And we brought that energy."
Leading 3-0, the Cougars batted around and scored four runs in the third and fourth. Shannon Bell finished a home run short of the cycle, going 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs. Selena Bezares went 3-for-3 with a two-run double and three runs scored. And Caylin Delones and Morgan Slater, the No. 8 and 9 batters, respectively, collected a pair of hits.
"Everything clicked," Carter said. "The hitting was there. The pitching was there, and the defense was there. That's the way it's supposed to work."
7A-8: Gaither and Steinbrenner brought more than good pitching to the semifinals. They added lots of drama.
Top-seeded and host Gaither survived a seventh-inning rally by Wiregrass Ranch — the tying run at third — for a 4-3 victory. Earlier, No. 2 Steinbrenner snapped a scoreless tie with three unearned runs in the sixth and Kellee Ramsey threw a complete-game five-hitter in a 3-0 win against Freedom.
The final is at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Up 4-0, Gaither (15-5) appeared to be on cruise control. Sammi Grat was working on a five-hit shutout and had retired the first two batters in the seventh. She then got Strike 3 on Megan Miller. But the ball eluded the catcher, and Miller reached first.
The Bulls (13-12) loaded the bases on an error and single. Samantha Hiley followed with a three-run double and reached third on an error on the play. But Grat induced a ground ball from the next batter to end the game.
"That was intensity in the last inning, wasn't it?" Gaither coach Jerry Murray said. "I said three things to my team: 'Focused all game, intensity all game and perseverance until the end.' That's what made us a winner."
Alex Robbins' two-run double in the sixth put Gaither up 4-0.
"It's not easy when you wait until late to try to come back," Wiregrass Ranch coach Eddie Melendez said.
In the first game, Ramsey was locked in a pitchers' duel with Freedom's Grace Street until the sixth, when Steinbrenner (13-8) took advantage of three errors by Freedom (12-10). Erica Serafini, who had the Warriors' only two hits, singled home Karsen Barnes with two outs for a 1-0 lead. The other two runs scored on errors.
"I've been having a rough time at the plate," Serafini said. "I was thinking I need to hit the ball no matter what. (Street) plays on my travel ball team, and I know where she pitches."
Steinbrenner turned double plays in the third and sixth.
"We haven't won our first game in district in a couple years, so this is a good win for us," Steinbrenner coach Colleen Sanders said. "I think this is going to build our team confidence."
Times correspondent Don Jensen contributed to this report.