It’s a season of firsts for the Durango High School softball team.
The Demons started the season 7-0 before dropping a doubleheader to Delta during the weekend, and Saturday they will be at home for the first time this season – and the previous 17 seasons before that.
Durango will play its home games at DHS this year and will open with a doubleheader against Grand Junction at 10 a.m. Saturday.
In previous seasons, the Demons played home games at Aspen Field on the Fort Lewis College campus. But, with the FLC facility under renovations, Durango moved back down the hill from FLC to DHS, and the Demons can’t wait to be back at home.
“They’re so excited to actually play home games and have it feel like a home game,” Durango head coach Melissa Fundora said. “The girls are excited, the coaching staff is excited, and we’re hoping it will bring more students out to support the softball team. Before, it was a bit of a trek to get to Fort Lewis, and now we’ll be playing here.”
The move back to DHS also brings a new level of comfort and familiarity for the Demons.
“Playing at the college, I feel like there’s more pressure there – even though no one from the college is usually there,” senior Joie Raybourn said. “It was kind of intimidating. We never practiced there, and it was always kind of like an away game. I’m really excited to play here. We’re here every day. It’s comforting.”
Durango’s softball field was cut out of the baseball outfield in 2010. The team practiced and played at FLC for 10 years before its creation, but the DHS softball diamond has never seen a game.
A lot of work went into making the field playable, DHS athletic director Adam Bright said. An architect drew up plans for a new backstop and dugouts to take a practice area and turn it into a game field. Home plate was moved 7-feet, 2-inches in, so the bases and pitching rubber all had to be moved, too. With those adjustments, 7 feet of sod had to be cut out to increase the dirt infield area. The old temporary fence for the baseball field, which shares outfields with the softball field, was moved in to create a new outfield fence for the softball field, and a permanent fence replaced it in center field for the baseball outfield.
The new scoreboard installed lasted season at the baseball diamond was strategically positioned so it can also be used for softball games. Bleachers for fans to sit on were to be installed Thursday.
There’s more for the team to be excited about than just playing on a familiar field. The Demons’ seven wins this season has already matched the team’s win total for the past two seasons combined and is the best start to a season since 2011.
The strong start didn’t come as a huge surprise to Fundora, who said Durango’s roster, and the way the schedule was set up was designed so the Demons could build some momentum in the early part of the season that will hopefully carry over to the league schedule.
Whether their opponents are at the same level or not, there’s no denying the Demons’ offense has been great so far this season.
Through nine games, the team has averaged 17.3 runs per game, and it has been held to single-digit runs only twice.
“At the plate, everyone has the mindset of, ‘I’m going to hit the ball and get on base,’” Fundora said. “And when they come with that confident mindset, it’s really showing.”
Leading the Demons’ devastating offense is Raybourn, who’s has hit for .774 average in 35 plate appearances with 22 runs batted in and six triples.
It’s not all Raybourn powering the run production. Part of what has made the Demons so dominant in the early stages of the season is their balance in the lineup. Along with Raybourn, four other players have already driven in 14 or more runs, and the Demons boasts a team batting average of .538.
Part of the Demons’ success stems from the joy they’re getting out of the season and the chemistry they’ve built on the numerous road trips they’ve had to start the season. It’s a trend they hope carries over to Saturday’s doubleheader against Grand Junction (4-7) and the start of Southwestern League play.
“It’s really easy when you’re having so much fun on the team,” said junior Virginia Herr, who’s hitting .579 with 17 RBIs this season. “When you have a bad game, it’s easy to fall down (mentally), but when you have other people having fun and staying up, they can kind of catch you and bring you back up.”
Herald sports editor John Livingston contributed to this email@example.com