Durant freshman Blaine Rowland tossed five innings of shutout relief as the Cougars topped Lennard in the Saladino Gold Tournament quarterfinals.

By Jarrett Guthrie

PLANT CITY – Given new life as a skied pop fly off the bat of Luke Scolaro skipped off the glove of Lennard’s third baseman, Durant’s Dean Hotz charged down the line with everything he had in the next at-bat as two runners in motion crossed the plate on the West Florida commits infield single. That was all relief pitcher Blaine Rowland would need as the Durant freshman would silence the Longhorns hitters for the final five innings, leading to his second win of the season over Lennard, this time by a score of 5-3 in Monday’s Saladino Tournament – Gold Bracket quarterfinal game.

“He does what most freshman can’t do,” Durant head coach Butch Valdes said. “He’s just calm under pressure, we love to see the composure and we are expecting big things from this young pup.

“That’s our future out there, and it’s nice to see.”

RELATED: Strawberry Crest senior Colby Fanning tossed a one-hit shutout as the Chargers defeated Plant City, 4-0 on Monday. This sets up a #Saladino2021 semifinal showdown between the Chargers and Durant on Tuesday (click here to read about Crest’s win).

The senior Hotz drove in four of Durant’s runs, starting things off with an RBI groundout in the first and added a run-scoring single in the third for a very productive night at the plate. After the win, Hotz spoke about taking advantage of the miscue in the fourth that allowed Durant to tie and then take the lead on Lennard (2-4).

“When you’ve got people on base, you’ve got to find a way to get them in,” Hotz said, “and when you get an extra chance, you have to get those runs.”

Durant senior Dean Hotz was 2-for-3, with four RBI in the Cougars win on Tuesday.

Lennard scored all three runs in the second as Matthew Counts led off the frame with a single, followed immediately by a Joseph Rivera (1-1, two BB) single and then two strikeouts from Durant (8-2) starting pitcher Ronnie Galletti, but a walk and back-to-back RBI singles from Sebastian Munoz and Alex Brazer (two RBI) put the Longhorns ahead.

Lennard’s Sebastian Munoz singles in his team’s first run in the second inning sending a liner into left.

The next inning, Rowland took to the mound and said he only expected to toss a few innings. But the freshman showed tremendous poise on the mound working himself out of a first-and-third jam in the third with a pair of strikeouts, then doing it again to strand a runner on third in the sixth.

Fired Up. Rowland pumps his fist as he leaps off the mound after stranding a runner on third with a strikeout to end the top of the sixth inning.

“That strikeout felt great,” Rowland said. “Being in that position, feeling the adrenaline, you’ve got to love it. I just wanted it. I had the urge to get that out and it felt amazing.”

Rowland (2-1, 0.87 ERA) finished with five punch outs, and issued three walks, and one hit in his relief outing.

“He shoved his heart out tonight,” Hotz said of his pitcher. “That’s all we can ever ask for.”

On the other side, senior Fransisco Alaniz came in during the fourth and was tagged with one, unearned run, but picked up the final eight outs for his team, only allowing a Dylan LaPointe double down the left field line in the fifth in his final two innings of work.

Lennard freshman Matthew Counts slides safely into third base. Counts started the Longhorns three-run second inning with a single and would score his team’s first run.


Durant 5
Lennard 3

L 030|000|0 – |3|5|1
D 101|300|x – |5|5|0
W – Rowland (2-1); L – Mueller (0-2).
2B – LaPointe (D). Records – L (2-4); D (8-2).