EAST LAKE — Never mind what may have been said over social media, or from the aluminum bleachers, or from the fences along the foul lines, or even in those fleeting moments between fastballs.
Here’s what was said when the game was all over, when Tyler Danish had done what he always does from the mound and pitched Durant to a 3-0 victory over East Lake in their Class 8A region semifinal.
“He’s as good as it gets,” East Lake coach Dan Genna said.
“He’s the best pitcher we’ve faced all year,” East Lake second baseman Doug Rovello said.
“They said, ‘They’re ready for Danish,’ ” Durant coach Butch Valdes said. “You haven’t seen Danish. No one has seen Danish. This kid is special. He really is.”
Danish pitched his eighth complete game of the season Tuesday, allowing two hits, walking three and striking out 14 in a masterful performance against an East Lake lineup that was averaging more than six runs per game.
Durant (23-5) advanced to its second region final in three years.
Standing in the Cougars’ way was East Lake (24-4), which had won eight straight games and eagerly awaited a rematch following its 3-0 loss to Durant in the region quarterfinal last season.
The Eagles had managed to avoid Danish in last year’s game and still failed to produce any offense against then-senior starter Trey Oest.
This time, they weren’t so lucky.
Danish and the Cougars said there was a little more trash talk and banter than in previous games.
“I tried not to notice it,” Durant second baseman Jared Donini said, “but there was smack-talking the whole time.”
Indeed. There was a lively crowd at Lee Byers Field, with both the home and visitors bleachers filled with fans and nearly that many lining the fences along the field — to say nothing of the crowd of major-league scouts behind home plate.
Rovello, who had the only two hits against Danish, said he and his teammates had encouraged their fans to turn out for the game.
“We just promoted it like a fight,” he said.
The teams didn’t strike many blows in the first four innings, as East Lake sophomore starter Ryan Wall nearly matched Danish from the mound. The game was scoreless until only a single out remained in the top of the fifth.
It was then Durant centerfielder Garrett Wright delivered the knockout shot, with runners at first and third base.
Wright singled to shallow left, where the Eagles’ outfielder failed to cleanly field the ball and Donini seized upon the opportunity to score from second.
“When you’ve got Danish in the mound, we know that if we score one run a lot of pressure is taken off,” Wright said. “Then it’s on him.”
The Cougars added two more runs in the sixth, but Danish gave East Lake a sliver of hope by issuing two walks in the bottom of the inning.
With runners at second and third, a newly energized home crowd and cleanup hitter Keegan Maronpot at the plate, the Eagles finally were in position to score — something only one other team (Newsome) had managed all season.
Danish responded with a three-pitch strikeout to end the inning.
“I knew the streak was still there,” said Danish, who kept his ERA at 0.00 for 2013. “But I got backed down into a corner and responded like I have all year.”
7A: Steinbrenner stunned in shutout
LUTZ — Wiregrass Ranch junior Zach Drury had the utmost respect for nationally ranked Steinbrenner before he took the mound Tuesday night. Two hours later, Warriors coach John Crumbley thought just as highly of Drury, whose two-hit shutout led the Bulls to a stunning 4-0 victory in the Class 7A region semifinals.
“You got to give Zach Drury credit,” Crumbley said. “He came out with a desire and (Wiregrass Ranch) made plays for him. We’re a pretty good offensive team, and he made us not very good today. That’s a tribute to him.”
Drury allowed doubles in the third and fourth innings as he avenged two earlier losses to Steinbrenner (24-3), MaxPreps’ No. 16 nationally ranked team that had beaten Wiregrass Ranch (20-9) in three previous meetings. The Bulls will travel to Venice on Friday for a berth in the state tournament.
“This game meant so much,” Drury said. “(Steinbrenner) is the best team I’ve ever pitched against. All I had to do was throw strikes and get the leadoff batter out.”
Sixty-one of Drury’s 103 pitches were strikes, including first-pitch strikes to 19 of 30 batters. The right-hander struck out five and walked four, and induced 11 flyball outs.
“I threw fastballs and curves, and a couple of changeups,” Drury said.
Wiregrass Ranch snapped a scoreless tie with two fifth-inning runs against loser Gideon Dunn. Michael Campoamor’s double scored Chris Parra, who had reached on an infield error, and a single by Shane Bucenell (three hits) plated Campoamor. The Bulls added runs in the final two innings. Parra doubled and scored on an Austin Drury sacrifice fly, and Kai Maynor came home on a Ryan Girard single.
Steinbrenner stranded nine baserunners, five in scoring position. Zach Drury wiggled out of his biggest jam in the sixth when the Warriors loaded the bases with one out. He got Chase Turner to pop to short and threw out Danny Rodriguez on a comebacker to the mound.
“I’ve pitched a lot of good games,” Zach Drury said. “But this is the biggest game I’ve ever pitched in. It feels so good.”
6A: King's 11-run inning seals win
SEMINOLE — For four innings Tuesday, King and Osceola were locked in a tight, low-scoring game.
That all changed in the fifth inning.
The Lions’ offense came unhinged. Seemingly every batter was able to hit the ball in the gaps. And the runs came in bunches. By the time the top half of the inning ended, King sent 15 batters up, recorded 10 hits and scored 11 runs.
That outburst was all King needed in a 12-0 victory that was called after five innings because of the 10-run mercy rule. The Lions (24-3), who have won 15 straight, will host Mitchell in Friday’s Class 6A region final.
“I hate to say it, but we were pretty confident,” King coach Jim Macaluso said. “We have a good offensive club, and we started to hit balls that were finding the gaps.”
It didn’t start out that way. Osceola starter Justin Kremer was keeping the Lions at bay, holding them to three hits through four innings.
Trouble was, the Warriors could not do much on offense, either.
Brandon Caples, King’s No. 2 pitcher, allowed just one hit and walked one batter in five innings to improve to 9-0. His performance was big considering the Lions were able to save ace Brett Morales for Friday’s game.
“This wasn’t us gambling and trying to save our ace, though,” Macaluso said. “We have all the faith in Brandon. We’ve stayed with the same rotation and started each pitcher every other game this year.”
Caples was able to cruise by, relying on his off-speed pitching, particularly his curveball.
“I had a little bit of nerves, but once we got a run they all went away,” Caples said. “I got stronger as the game went on.”
He got all the run support he needed in the fifth. Kevin Buckley, Sey Juan Lawrence and Bubby Terp each had two hits in the inning and scored twice.
The Warriors, meanwhile, went through three pitchers. All Osceola coach Stefan Futch could do afterward was shake his head.
“I thought we played the best with what we had,” Futch said. “We were right there for four innings, and I was hoping maybe we could squeeze a run in and stay in it. But give (King) credit. They swung the bats real well in that fifth inning. It seemed like every batter was getting a hit.”
5A: Jesuit rides fast start
DUNEDIN — For Jesuit coach Richie Warren, Tuesday night’s Class 5A region semifinal against Dunedin was like old times. During the past three weeks, the Tigers lost two of five games and didn’t score more than five runs in any of them.
But the bats came alive against the Falcons. Jesuit erupted for 16 hits, eight of them for extra bases, in an 11-1 win.
“Sometimes box scores are misleading,” Warren said. “You only score three runs but you hit the ball right at people. Tonight was a step in the right direction. It’s something we’ve been looking forward to. It’s like it was earlier in the year when we were beating teams by 10 runs.”
Jesuit (26-2) wasted no time getting to Dunedin starter Alex Hart. Vincent Miniet led off with a home run to left-centerfield, and it was downhill for the Falcons (18-10) from there.
One out later, Adrian Chacon doubled and Leland Saile walked. With two outs and two on, Daniel Portales tripled home two runs to make it 3-0. In the bottom of the first, Jesuit starter Jordan Parnell needed only four pitches to get three outs. It was that kind of night for Dunedin.
“What hurt was that after they get those three runs, we come back with a four-pitch bottom half,” Dunedin coach Tom Hilbert said.
“We thought that if we could get off to a good start, we’d have a chance. Certainly, we had to play a perfect game. We didn’t do that. A lot of that is because they are such a good team.”
In the second inning, Spencer Trayner had an RBI single and later scored on a Kellen Brown throwing error to first that made it 5-0 Jesuit.
Dunedin had its best chance to cut into the lead in the third. The Falcons loaded the bases with one out. Warren removed Parnell for relief pitcher Ronnie Ramirez.
Ramirez walked Brown to force in a run. But the rally was killed when Aaron Chesson lined to rightfielder Saile, who threw out Trever Jensen at home for the third out.
Jesuit tacked on two runs in the fourth, highlighted by a homer from Evan Cannan, and another in the fifth to take a commanding lead. And just for good measure, Saile hit a three-run homer in the sixth to make it 11-1.
“We’ve been hitting the ball right at people and not catching any breaks,” Trayner said. “Tonight we caught the breaks. We were all seeing the ball well.”
Trayner was 3-for-5 with an RBI, Miniet 2-for-5, Chacon 3-for-5 with an RBI and Saile 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
Four Jesuit pitchers held Dunedin to seven hits.
4A: Pitching tandem lifts Tampa Catholic
TAMPA — Trickery wasn’t an option against a foe so familiar. Tampa Catholic and Berkeley Prep knew each other far too well for that.
So in the teams’ fourth meeting of the year Tuesday, with the stakes at their highest on a chilly night, Crusaders pitchers A.J. Gonzalez and Reeves Martin leaned on mettle: keep the fastballs low and the fortitude high. No frills.
No problem. Bending periodically but never relenting, the pair kept Berkeley (14-15) off balance and got nine hits from its offense in a 5-2 Crusaders victory in the Class 4A region semifinals. TC (17-11) seeks its 16th final four berth Friday at Fort Myers Bishop Verot.
“It’s the same guys. They’re all good players, all good hitters. They all know how to work the count,”said Gonzalez, a 6-foot-3 senior who scattered two runs and nine hits over 5.1 innings. “Beating this team is better than beating any other team. I’d rather beat this team than anybody — except maybe Jesuit.”
Gonzalez’s offense gave him all the support he’d need in the first two innings off rangy Berkeley left-hander Anderson Baldy, who went the distance.
Leadoff hitter Dre Leal, who singled to start the game, ultimately stole home with two out on a heady dash to the plate. His two-out RBI single in the second highlighted a two-run inning that included Josh Russo scoring on a wild pitch.
“It was just a huge emotional lift to get out on top, for one,” said TC coach Ty Griffin, whose team dropped two of the previous three to Berkeley including a 6-0 loss in the District 9 final. “We’ve been playing behind against these guys the last three or four times.”
Jake Clark added a two-out homer in the fourth, giving TC a 4-1 lead. It was 5-2 when Berkeley chased Gonzalez with one out in the bottom of the sixth after Anthony Pellegrino’s leadoff homer and a couple of singles.
Enter Martin, a 5-foot-6, 155-pound sophomore righty. With two on, he struck out Baldy, walked Gray Oakley to load the bases, then fanned No. 2 hitter Dante Bosnic with a sequence of fastballs.
“(Martin) came up huge, man,” Griffin said. “But I think more importantly, (Gonzalez) got us to that point.”
3A: Terrapins turn to their defense
TAMPA — Defensive stops lifted Tampa Prep 3-2 over Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic in the Class 3A region semifinal.
Junior Sam Martin started Tuesday and despite giving up a two-run home run in the first, pitched 5 1/3 solid innings before handing off to Watson Ransom.
The Terrapins got their offense going in the third when Matthew Fulton led off with a single and Kirby Wilson got hit by a pitch. Next up was Luis Medina, who laced a pitch to right, driving in both runners. Medina then scored on an error to give Tampa Prep the lead.
Then defense took over. Fulton made a charging throw in the fourth that stranded runners at second and third. Gerardo Miranda-Rivera stabbed a laser hit down the third-base line in the fifth. In the top of the seventh, freshman Holden Bridge, brought in during the sixth, fielded a ball in leftfield as the tying run was headed to the plate.
“I always dream about throwing runners out at home,” Bridge said.
Bridge’s throw got past the cutoff man and made Medina’s glove at home on one hop. A groundout to Miranda-Rivera sealed the win.
2A: Cambridge makes win look easy
TAMPA — In last year’s region semifinal, Cambridge Christian fell short in a heartbreaking 1-0 decision to Winter Haven All Saints’.
On Tuesday, the Lancers got their revenge.
All nine batters in the Cambridge lineup reached base at least once, and five Lancers had multiple base hits in an 11-0, five-inning dismantling of the Saints.
“We knew that they were a younger team this year with a different dynamic,” Cambridge starting pitcher Zach Hessinger said. “Losing last year was tough, but this helps make up for it a little bit.”
Hessinger was in command from the start against the Saints (11-14), striking out three of the first four batters. The senior southpaw gave up a single with two outs in the first, but that was the only hit he allowed in four innings of work. Hessinger finished with four strikeouts and no walks. He also went 2-for-3 at the plate with a run-scoring single.
“Hessinger’s an off-speed pitcher — pitch off his change-up — and he was able to locate that for strikes,” Cambridge coach Sam Marsonek said. “He stayed effective throughout the four innings he pitched.”
Cambridge (15-9) did the bulk of its damage in the second inning, scoring seven runs to put the game out of reach. Levi Gilcrease started the onslaught with a two-RBI single, and Hessinger followed a batter later with his RBI base hit to chase Saints starter Carson Ciavardone. Elias Rivera, Zach Mallan and Henry Mesa each had consecutive RBI singles later in the inning.
“That second inning helped me pound the strike zone the rest of the game,” Hessinger said. “It all starts off with how you hit.”
Mesa added a second RBI single in the fourth to push Cambridge’s lead to 10-0. Zach Stein doubled, and Mesa scored on a wild pitch for the Lancers’ 11th run. Gilcrease pitched the fifth, allowing just one walk with two outs, to finish off the Saints.
“It’s good to see,” Marsonek said. “Guys are starting to understand all the work they put in up to this point will help them continue to keep playing.”
Photo: Jesuit shortstop Spencer Trayner
Staff writers Bob Putnam, Joey Knight and Rodney Page, and correspondents Don Jensen, Bryan Burns and Andy Warrener contributed to this report.