FORT MYERS -- All week long leading up to Friday morning’s Class 8A state semifinal, American’s players had heard all of the buzz surrounding Tyler Danish.
Regarded as one of the best pitchers in the state, the ace for Plant City Durant showed everyone what all the buzz was about and why he will be drafted in the early rounds of the upcoming MLB draft.
Going up against a Patriots team well-known for its powerful bats, Danish dominated from the start, firing a one-hit, complete-game shutout as the Cougars advanced to Saturday’s 8A state title game with a 6-0 victory at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers. Durant (25-5) will take on Altamonte Springs Lake Brantley in the 8A title game Saturday.
Danish, a University of Florida recruit if he opts for college, finished the game with 10 strikeouts against just one walk, faced just three batters over the minimum (24) and 62 of his 84 pitches were strikes. He entered the game with a 14-1 record and an ERA as low as it can go, 0.00 having given up only six runs the entire season — all unearned.
“As good as advertised and maybe better,” American coach Ricky Gutierrez said bluntly. “I had called around during the week to talk to some coaches about him, and they said that the kid was just a freak. Pretty much the best high school pitcher I’ve seen in a long time, and we all saw that out there today.”
Not only was he dominant on the mound, but also Danish showed why he bats third in the lineup. With two outs and one on in the top of the third, he got an inside fastball from American starter Ronnie Williams and hit a towering drive well over the 37-foot “green monster” wall in left field to put his team up 2-0.
“I missed up and inside, and he took it out,” Williams said. “He obviously has a great bat as well.”
The Cougars would add single runs in the fourth and fifth innings and two in the seventh, but Danish’s swing would be all the offense he and his team would need.
“Pretty much the best I’ve seen in my four years for sure,” said American senior Kendrick Gutierrez, the coach’s son and the one responsible for keeping Danish from firing a no-hitter when he delivered a fourth-inning single up the middle. “He’s got a good slider that breaks away from the hitter and then comes at you with a fastball that breaks in. We just kept trying to fight our way through it, but it just wasn’t there.”
Even though they only had three base runners all day, the Patriots had a chance to score in both the third and fourth innings.
In the third, Kevin Williams struck out to lead off, but a dropped third strike and ensuing errant throw to first left him at second base. One out later, he reached third on a groundout to the pitcher, but Edison Cabrera grounded out to short to end the inning.
With two outs in the fourth, Gutierrez got his single to break up the no-hitter, and Danish followed with his only walk of the day — to Williams — leaving runners at first and second. But he then got Kevin Peraza swinging to end the inning, and the Patriots (20-9) would never reach base again.
“Nothing that happened today takes away from what we accomplished this season,” Ricky Gutierrez said. “I told our kids to hold their heads up high as we were the only public school in Dade or Broward County to make the final four, and there is a lot to be said for that.”
WP: T. Danish (15-1). LP: R. William (4-4). Top performers: K. Gutierrez 1-3.