Mobley fans 13, Durant narrowly edges Jefferson 1-0

Durant senior Nick April-Gath helps out the home-plate ump, ruling himself safe prior to scoring the game-deciding run in the sixth inning. 

By Jarrett Guthrie, Editor

PLANT CITY – Durant senior pitcher Chase Mobley took a minor spill fielding a groundball off the mound during his last outing in a shutout win against Plant City. Aside from earning him a handful of good-natured chuckles from his squad, the stumble did no damage but did give the righty something to focus on in practice this week.

Click here for more photos from this game.

That work paid off as Mobley put on a clinic Friday night – utter dominance from the mound – striking out a baker’s dozen and showing off his PFP (pitcher’s fielding practice) work getting outs off four comebackers and leading the way for a well-earned 1-0 victory against a scrappy Jefferson squad.

“He bounces off that mound, boy,” Durant coach Butch Valdes said. “His last outing, he tripped and fell at Plant City, so he was focused and wasn’t gonna do that tonight.”

Cougars senior Chase Mobley struck out 13 in his six, shutout innings on Friday.

After striking out the first batter he faced, Jefferson’s Isiah Fernandez chopped a ball up the middle on what looked like trouble, only to see out of the corner of his eye the 6-foot-6 Mobley use every millimeter of height to snag the ball on the apex of the chop and toss to first base.

“Last game against Plant City, I missed a PFP there and fell,” Mobley chuckled. “I adjusted and fixed it, and tonight I had three or four at me tonight. Those plays, you think, ‘don’t get sped up,’ because those plays can happen fast … you have to relax and let the play come to you.”

Isiah Fernandez slides in under the tag of Durant SS Nick April-Gath for a stolen base.

Later in the game the fiery competitor made in-the-moment corrections after making two scoops of the ball, momentarily trying to beat runners to first, but both times decided the flip to first baseman Pete Oderio instead.

“Hey, might as well get my running in while I’m out there,” he joked.

Chase Mobley gets some momentary cardio in, before deciding to flip the ball to first for an out. 

In response, Dragons senior lefty James Van Meter was solid in his six innings, allowing just three hits and not suffering any damage from five walks, while striking out four.

A Blaine Rowland single in the first inning followed by a wild pitch moved the Cougars senior to third, but Van Meter showed off his glove taking in a ground ball, checking the runner and throwing for an out, then ending the threat with a punchout. More of the same the next inning as Durant’s Jackson McClellan walked, stole second and arrived at third on a sac bunt, but Van Meter fielded another and ended the threat.

Jefferson junior second baseman Isiah Fernandez (1-for-3) goes up for a high throw as Jackson McClellan swipes a bag.

“Usually with a runner on third it puts on a lot of pressure, but with one or two outs in those situations, I knew I really had to focus,” Van Meter said. “So, I think that there (in a scoreless game) it kind of helped with that. Each approach was just more and more dialed-in as I threw each pitch.”

Jefferson senior lefty Jame Van Meter delivers a pitch. Van Meter would take the tough loss, striking out three and allowing one unearned run.

Mobley hit a batter in the third, facing one over the minimum through that inning, as the two pitchers battled it out.

“I think pretty much everything was working for me out there,” Mobley said. “I’ve been having a really good feel for all of my pitches lately and at the end of the day, it’s been about mixing up my pitches in certain sequences.”

Jefferson’s Cameron Copple breaks down the line on his double – the game’s only extra-base hit.

Jefferson (13-7) finally pushed Mobley into a little trouble in the fourth with singles from Fernandez and Alliuq Troupe (the only play Mobley wasn’t able to make off the mound), but the Florida State signee nipped the rally with three strikeouts.

Cougars 1B Pete Oderio goes up for a catch as Jefferson’s Alliuq Troupe beats out an infield single. 

Durant (15-3) finally got what it needed in the sixth, with senior Nick April-Gath making a heady call to lead off the home-half. After a first-pitch strike, April-Gath dropped down a bunt that deadened down the third base line about 10 feet from the plate, and motored for a single. But unfortunately for the Dragons an ill-advised attempt to get the out resulted in the inning’s first hitter reaching second on the error.

“That was his call,” Valdes said, “he did that on his own. That’s what you appreciate about the veteran seniors – they see an opportunity and they take it.”

Jefferson first baseman Cameron Copple forces Blaine Rowland out of the base path for a putout, but not before the latter gives Durant the one-run advantage. 

Hustling down the line, April-Gath said he didn’t see the throw, but saw the reaction of Dragons’ first baseman Cameron Copple (1-for-3, double) and made the quick call to turn.

“I saw the first baseman diving over to try and get the ball, I knew I could take second and take advantage of that,” he said.

Cougars senior Blaine Rowland (2-for-3) drives in the games only run, going the other way with a ground ball single. 

The extra 90 feet proved crucial as April-Gath took off just prior to Rowland sending a groundball single beyond the reach of Copple at first to drive in the deciding run.

An inning earlier, Devin Suero attempted a two-out bunt to get something going, only to have Dragons catcher CJ Padilla spring from his crouch and fire a dart to first.

Senior catcher CJ Padilla makes a play on a bunt in front of the plate, ending the fifth inning.

After that, April-Gath (crediting the effort of Van Meter) said the Cougars needed to find a way to scratch anything off the Palm Beach State signee.

“He had a good off-speed, and we weren’t catching up to it,” April-Gath said. “… but we made something happen there at the end.”

And though Rowland was caught in a rundown between first and second to give the April-Gath some extra time, Van Meter struggled momentarily walking a pair. But his defense was there to pick him up as Jefferson avoided further damage with a highlight reel play from centerfielder Hayden Sekanick. The senior captain charged in on a line drive, and after making the catch, sent a strike to third baseman KJ Sampson coming off the bag making a catch and split-second tag for the double play.

Jefferson senior CF Hayden Sekanick gets the hero’s welcome after ending the home-sixth with a catch-and-throw double play. 

But any hope for a momentum swing in the Dragons direction in the seventh inning were dashed as Rowland would take over on the bump and strikeout the side to earn the save.

“This helps us get ready for the playoffs, because we know all of our games will get closer and closer as we get to the end of the season,” April-Gath said of the competitive, late-season tilt. “We learned we need to take advantage of whatever we can to come away with a win.”

Cougars are back in action against Tampa Bay Tech this morning, and host Spoto on Tuesday; while Jefferson will welcome Gaither on Monday.

Chase Mobley walks off the hill after ending a first-and-third threat with a strikeout in the fourth.

#3 Durant 1, Jefferson 0

J 000|000|0 – |0|3|1
D 000|001|x – |1|3|0
W – Mobley (4-1); L – Van Meter (0-4); S – Rowland
2B – Copple (J). Records – J (13-7); D (15-3).

Senior Blaine Rowland is fired up after he K’d the side to end the game and earn the save.