DHS swingin’ white-hot sticks

Demons carry a big average into their home opener

The Durango High School baseball team is downright offensive.

And in this case, that’s a good thing. A very good thing.

The Demons enter their Southwestern League opener – at 12:30 p.m. today against Montrose – swinging white hot metal. They’ve scored 96 total runs in eight games, an average of 12 runs per contest, and entered last weekend’s Piedra Vista Tournament – a wooden-bat tournament – hitting a robust .435 as a team.More impressive is who the Demons are doing this without. Blake Dunlap is the only one of last season’s top five Demons in runs batted in to return as DHS lost six of its key offensive contributors to graduation.“They started off, especially that first weekend when we went to Cañon City and Pueblo, we really came out gunning. ... We’ve still got a bunch of good hitters. I think we’re going to be in good shape,” DHS head coach Rob Coddington said. “I think we stack up pretty well.”In the wake of those losses, a host of new hitting heroes has arisen. Dunlap opened the year 15-for-19 (.789) before last weekend’s play, driving in 12 runs in Durango’s first five games. Jeremy Szura hit .400 and drove in 11 runs for the Demons through five games, while Isiah Mayberry opened the season hitting .471 and drove in 10 runs in five games.

Out of the seven Demons with at least 20 plate appearances through the season’s first five games, all had an average of .333 or better, while five of them were hitting .400 or better. “I think really we just have been aggressive offensively, and we’ve been swinging at strikes and really focused at the plate with good approaches,” said infielder Connor Dugan, son of Gabrielle and Tom Dugan.DHS scuffled a bit in Farmington, going 1-2 while swinging wooden sticks, including a loss to SWL foe Fruita Monument. And Coddington said there’s some defensive kinks he’d like to see his team work out, while still projecting confidence the Demons would find a way to get it done with the leather. Part of that is the injection of new players into some new positions, and a lot of that shifting likely had some folks expecting DHS to take a bit of a dip this year after going 7-3 and winning an SWL title last season. But the Demons have weathered the early portion of the season with aplomb so far. An underrated key to the solid start has been the Demons’ pitching. Their arms were a question mark coming in, after the loss of their top two starters. “Yeah, our pitching staff’s definitely underrated. But we’ve got good arms on the mound that’ve been getting the job done,” said Dunlap, son of Aaron and Julie Dunlap. The SWL will be tricky again, as always. Every team in the league currently sits with a .500 or better record, led by Montrose, who entered this weekend’s play unbeaten.

Can Durango get back to the top yet again? “A big thing with our team is, yeah, we’re a little young, but also we’re a tight group. ... I think we’ll do pretty well,” Dugan said.

rowens@durangoherald.com