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Durant bats go cold at inopportune time

The Cougars had been averaging more than 10 runs per game ahead of Friday night’s region final vs. Viera.
Durant centerfielder Shelby Allen slides safely into second base, which made her the only Cougar to reach second during a 5-0 loss to Viera in Class 6A region final.
Durant centerfielder Shelby Allen slides safely into second base, which made her the only Cougar to reach second during a 5-0 loss to Viera in Class 6A region final. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]
Published May 15
Updated May 15

PLANT CITY — Durant softball coach Olivia Cuellar said the Cougars’ 5-0 loss to Viera in Friday’s Class 6A region final was “a mystery.”

“There are a lot of questions,” Cuellar said. “I don’t have the answers.”

The biggest question is arguably what happened to the offense?

Heading into Friday’s game, Durant (18-3) averaged more than 10 runs a game and had been shut out once, but that came against Class 7A Newsome, which was ranked No. 1 in the state at the time.

Against Viera, however, Durant collected only three hits, struck out eight times and had only one runner reach second base.

“We didn’t adjust at the plate like we normally do,” Cuellar said. “We usually are very good at making those adjustments.”

Then on the Cougars’ defensive side, there were a couple of uncharacteristic miscues on fly balls and an error.  And on the mound, junior starter Haleigh Thomas went from looking completely in command through three shutout innings to vulnerable in the fourth when Viera (17-6) sent a two-run homer over the centerfield fence. From there, Viera gained momentum, sending several balls to the warning track.

Before Friday’s game, Cuellar said she felt great about her team’s chances. The Cougars, after all, were at home and they seemed to be on a tremendous roll.

Not only had the Cougars won 10 straight but they had averaged 12 runs a game in those victories and Tuesday had just won 2-1 over Bartow, which was ranked No. 4 overall in the state by MaxPreps.

“And then we came out flat,” Cuellar said. “It was strange. But sometimes things like this happen. It is a mystery.”

Region softball finals

6A: Mitchell 8, Venice 0

6A: Viera 5, Durant 0

5A: Land O’Lakes 6, Palmetto 3

4A: Hernando 4, Lake Region 3

3A: Holy Names 5, Lakeland McKeel 0

2A: Canterbury 9, Fort Myers Evangelical Christian 3

2A: Mount Dora Christian 10, Seffner Christian 0