The thunder rolled, then the Demons’ bats struck.
Durango High School may have played its best baseball game of the season Saturday, and it came at the perfect time. Hosting a red-hot Fruita Monument squad that previously was unbeaten in Southwestern League play, the DHS Demons rallied together for a nine-run bottom of the sixth inning to secure a 16-9 victory.
“We know our guys can swing the sticks, and they went up to the plate confident all game,” DHS head coach Rob Coddington said. “Winning a game against a real tough team that has been real competitive, I couldn’t be happier with the win, and I’m real proud of the guys.”
The game was postponed nearly an hour after a lightning and rain storm blew over Walden Memorial Field on the DHS campus. Fruita Monument (10-6, 6-1 SWL) sought shelter, holding an 8-6 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Demons (6-6, 2-4 SWL) had the bases loaded with two outs when the umpires brought the game to a halt because of the weather.
DHS wasn’t able to capitalize on the bases-loaded situation when play resumed, as Wildcats pitcher Conner Harmon was able to record a key strikeout on a 3-2 count to DHS designated hitter Zac Gasaway.
The Wildcats tacked on a run in the top of the fifth inning, but the Demons matched when Lawrence Mayberry singled in Dayne Rowley.
Mayberry pitched 4 2/3 solid innings in relief of Rowley, who started the game for the Demons. He was able to set the Wildcats down in order in the top of the sixth inning, and then the Demons busted the game wide open.
DHS had five doubles in the inning, including two by Casey Dunlap, who finished the game 4-for-4 with a home run, three doubles and six RBIs and four runs scored.
“The whole team went out there with a good approach at the plate and put the ball in play,” said Casey Dunlap, the son of Aaron and Julie Dunlap. “We were more aggressive, waiting to see our pitch. It just worked out in our favor that inning.”
Gasaway, who was 3-for-5 with two doubles and two RBIs, followed Casey Dunlap with a single before pinch hitter Hayden Sill drew a walk. Rowley then drove in a run on a fielder’s choice, and Chris Jaworsky hit a monstrous double off the right-center field wall to drive home a pair of go-ahead runs.
Later in the inning, Casey Dunlap hit his third double of the game to drive home three more runs, and he went on to score on a Gasaway double.
Mayberry was the winning pitcher Saturday. After relieving Rowley, he allowed only three runs on five hits and three walks. He didn’t strike anyone out, but he braved the lengthy weather delay and kept firing strikes at the Wildcats.
“He is a real competitor,” Coddington said of Mayberry. “He kept it simple and threw strikes.”
Mayberry said he wasn’t phased by the rain delay, and he was happy to let his defense work behind him. DHS limited itself to only two fielding errors in the game.
“It felt good to pick up (Rowley) and throw some strikes,” said Mayberry, son of George and Tonya Mayberry.
“I was just trying to pump strikes and let that defense have fun working behind me.”
DHS started the game with a bang, as Blake Dunlap belted a two-run home run in a four-run inning. In the third inning, Casey Dunlap blasted a two-run home run of his own to score his brother.
“We are in this together; if we are going to go anywhere this year, we all have to do it together,” Blake Dunlap said.
Blake Dunlap closed out the seventh inning on the mound.
Fruita Monument entered the game 6-0 in league games, but head coach Ray McLennan knows it is hard for any team to run the table in the SWL, and he credited the Demons for taking the game.
“You have to be on your toes every game. Anybody can beat anybody else in this league, whether you’re in first or last place,” he said. “It is fun to have that competition, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Durango go deep in the 4A playoffs again this year.”
The Demons turn their focus to a non-league home contest against Delta at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and a 3:30 p.m. league game Thursday against Montezuma-Cortez.
“We have a big week coming up with a very good Delta team that is very aggressive and on a roll,” Coddington said. “Cortez is a team to be reckoned with that will never lay down to us. There is going to be some good baseball here in the next week.”