After struggling at times defensively during a pair of narrow opening wins, the Durant Lions turned in their best defensive effort of the young season at just the right time.
The Lions played error-free defense for seven strong frames, including key double plays in the first and last stanzas, to notch a pivotal 3-0 win over Coweta Tuesday evening in the District 5A-3 opener at DHS.
Durant, now 3-0 on the year, will hit the road for the first time on Thursday at Coweta looking for the sweep of the season series. The win also avenged three defeats to the Tigers a season ago, including in the regional tournament.
“This was a big win for us,” Durant head coach Ron Moore said. “That’s a good club (Coweta) and they are going to be right in the thick of things in a regional at the end of the year. We just have to keep taking care of business and go beat another good arm that we will see on Thursday.”
The pitching tandem of Brady Nichols and Dakota Finley combined on the pitching gem as they scattered six hits and struck out five with three walks, but most importantly worked out of trouble thanks to tremendous defensive plays behind them.
With Coweta threatening right off the bat, loading the bases on a pair of hits and walk with one out, the Durant defense quickly set the tone with a terrific double play turn from Braeden McKee to Shawn Westmoreland and on to Gavin Daws at first for the twin killing.
The Lion offense immediately answered by stringing together three of its seven hits in the contest en route to a quick 2-0 lead.
Dakota Finley smacked a leadoff single and Matthew Knox followed with a double. Connor Roberts plated the initial run with a ground ball that Coweta booted. Brady Nichols then beat out an infield single before courtesy runner Michael Wingfield scored via a Kolby Blake sacrifice fly.
Nichols fanned three in the second and pitched a perfect third before running into a bit of trouble again in the fourth following a walk and double by the Tigers. McKee however snagged two straight soft liners before an inning-ending strikeout that finished the big junior’s pitching day.
He scattered three hits, walked three and struck out four in four frames of work to notch the win.
That brought Finley in relief and the senior breezed through the fifth before running into trouble himself in the sixth.
Coweta worked a pair of one-out singles before back-to-back groundouts to Nichols at third and Westmoreland at short squelched the threat.
Just for good measure the Lions finished it off with a 5-4-3 twin killing in the seventh from Nichols to McKee to Daws.
“We couldn’t have scripted it any better,” Moore commented. “Our pitchers put the ball in the strikezone and let the defense play behind them. I think every kid on the field made a play defensively at some point tonight. That’s what we have strived for since Day 1 – to play good solid defense with pitchers throwing it in the zone.”
Durant wasted chances in both the second and third innings, leaving three runners stranded in scoring position, but managed to tack on a critical run for insurance in the fifth.
Knox got things rolling with a double and stole third before riding home on a double from Nichols as the Lions posted their second three-hit frame of the night.
“Hitting was kind of contagious tonight,” Moore added. “Knox got us started in the fifth and we picked up a big insurance run for some cushion.”
Finley worked the final three innings on the mound to record the pitching save, scattering three hits along with one strikeout.
Durant totaled seven hits in the game, topped by two each from Nichols and Knox. Finley, McKee and Blake all contributed one.
Contact Kevin Farr at 580-634-2161 or [email protected]