PLANT CITY — Playing a team four times in a season, especially a rival, can have its advantages and disadvantages.
For the Durant High softball team, facing city rival Plant City a fourth time, this time in a region semifinal, was all about the advantages.
Against one of Hillsborough County’s top pitchers, Durant compiled 11 hits to advance to Friday’s Class 7A-Region 2 championship game with a 5-2 victory.
The Cougars (20-8), who won the 8A state title in 2012, will play at Harmony with a trip to the final four on the line.
“We started off (the season) struggling against her, and now that we have seen her four times, we made adjustments at the plate,” said senior shortstop Brooke Freeman, who went 3-for-4 with a double, a run scored and a sacrifice fly for Durant. “We made her make adjustments and we made the adjustments right back.”
Senior center fielder Shannon Bell hit a solo home run in the third inning to give Durant a 4-0 lead, and the Cougars added a run in the sixth on a sac fly by Caylin Delones.
Plant City (20-7) scored two runs in the top of the seventh and had the bases loaded with no outs, but freshman pitcher Sloan Hammons forced two straight infield pop- ups and Morgan Slater ran down a foul ball in left field to end the rally as well as the game.
“It’s nice (playing a team four times) because we know their tendencies and they know our tendencies, and that is also the difficult part too,” Plant City coach Maggie Feix said. “We know each other too well to have an advantage, and this time they had the better outcome.
“They hit the ball and we didn’t hit the ball.”
Plant City pitcher Noelle Dietrich, who last week pitched a one-hitter, had one strikeout and went 3-for-3 to lead the Raiders.
“Persistence and adjustments,” Durant coach Matt Carter said. “That’s all it is.
“I can’t take claim for all the hits that we’re getting. It’s just a lot of work. The kids work hard and they practice hard and they have since Jan. 9.”