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Column: Cougars' success is no solo act

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Fri. May 17, 2013 | John C. Cotey | Email

Column: Cougars' success is no solo act

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FORT MYERS — Hialeah American coach Ricky Gutierrez was right about a few things Friday.

Yes, Durant pitcher Tyler Danish is a freak and something special.

And indeed, Danish is Superman.

And I suppose the Patriot coach was technically correct in saying Danish puts his pants on one leg at a time like everyone else, though at this point I kind of imagine he puts on his uniform like Tony Stark gets strapped up as Iron Man.

But here’s where Gutierrez, in an honest effort to be complimentary, messed up.

Durant is not just, as he stated, a one-man team that “doesn’t have to do too much when you have a Superman on the mound.”

It is a very good team with a bunch of very good players and one great one.

In Durant’s decisive and dominant 6-0 Class 8A semifinal victory over Hialeah American, everyone in the starting lineup reached base.

Six players not named Tyler Danish had hits, including three by Paxton Sims and two by Chaz Fowler.

Jake Sullivan had a two-out single in the third, which Danish followed with a two-run homer for the game’s first runs.

Luke Heyer drew a two-out walk in the fifth inning, stole second and scored on a passed ball.

Derrek Smith pinch ran twice for Danish, and stole two bases.

Shortstop Justin Nardello was perfect on four groundballs.

“It kind of hurts when people say we’re a one-man show, because we all know that every one plays a part,” said Sullivan, the baby-faced freshman catcher.

They played those parts expertly at JetBlue Park — mostly with two strikes and two outs.

“That was our Achilles’ heel for a while,” said Durant coach Butch Valdes, who added that some tweaks in the Cougars’ approach and mindset at the plate have led to, well, games like the one they won Friday.

The Cougars were 8-for-16 with two outs against Hialeah.

Their on-base percentage with two outs was .687.

They scored five of their six runs and had four RBIs with two outs.

Not bad for one guy.

Danish’s impact is immeasurable. His confidence and bulldog attitude is contagious. And you can bet his teammates are some of the most relaxed players in the state because they have the big fella behind them.

It starts with Danish, and it ends with Danish, and there’s a while lot of Danish in between. But if you overstate that, it diminishes the work of eight other players who did a little more than just hold their ace’s resin bag.

Not that you can blame Gutierrez, or anyone else.

Danish is larger than life, and his contributions are eye-opening: one hit allowed, two balls hit out of the infield, nine strikeouts, a home run over a 40-foot-high Green Monster replica in leftfield.

He did what he does, stretch his streak without allowing an earned run to an incredible and season-long 93 innings.

He didn’t, however, do it all.

“I didn’t have 12 hits, I didn’t score six runs,” Danish said. “But it’s not a one-man show. It may seem like it, but it’s not. One family, that might be what it was. But not a one-man show.”

I’m not suggesting Durant gets here, to Saturday’s championship game, without Danish. And none of the Cougars would be so foolish to do so either.

But if you look past the pitcher’s mound, past the quirky sidearm delivery and monster home runs, there’s a lot of other reasons to like the Cougar baseball team.

And a lot of other reasons it keeps winning.

Photo: Durant shortstop Justin Nardello throws to first during Friday's 6-0 win over Hialeah American.

John C. Cotey can be reached at cotey@tampabay.com or on Twitter @JohnnyHomeTeam.

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