The difference between Piedra Vista's first baseball victory in five tries and two seasons came down to the right-handed arm of 14-year-old freshman Shilo McCall.
Nursing a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning, Piedra Vista head coach Dick Laughlin pulled reliever Nevin Dominguez with a 2-0 count on Durango's No. 5 hitter Christian Silva for McCall. His first two pitches missed just high, and the bases were loaded for Demons catcher Justin Whirlow.
The game-tying run 90 feet away.
The game-winning run 180 feet away.
"This was his first time on the mound," Laughlin said.
"In a situation like that ... but that's all I had; I knew he could handle it."
On a 2-1 fastball letters high, Whirlow skied a major league popup on the infield. Tim Bailey, the Panthers' shortstop, squeezed it behind the second base bag, just shy of the outfield grass, to defeat the Demons - finally - 11-10 on Tuesday in a nonconference game on Ward Lee Field at the La Plata County Fairgrounds.
Durango (2-4) defeated Piedra Vista three times last season, and the Demons defeated the Panthers in their season opener March 10 in Farmington.
"I mean, they've crushed us four times, too," Laughlin said. "We needed that."
Piedra Vista got off to a great start with a 4-0 lead in the first inning.
Bailey reached base on a leadoff walk, then Demons' starting pitcher Aaron Coats hit cleanup batter Dylan Ducy with a pitch to put runners on first and second with two outs. Morgan McCasland singled to left to score Bailey, then McCall reached base on a potential inning-ending groundout to short.
Designated hitter Damian Lovato cleared the loaded bases with a double to center field that short-hopped the 400-foot wall.
"Baserunning mistakes, and we've gotta play good defense," Demons coach Rob Coddington said. "Aaron Coats threw way too many extra pitches. We're not going to win too many games with that defense."
Durango answered with three runs in the bottom of the first.
John Ugai started the rally with an opposite-field single to left, and Panthers starting pitcher Niles Taylor walked Coats. He loaded the bases by beaning cleanup hitter Kenneth Gallegos.
Silva drove in Ugai with a RBI groundout to first.
Whirlow drove in Coats and Silva with a double to the right-center field gap.
Durango took the lead with a three-run third inning, then led 9-4 after four with three more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.
"We showed a lot more fight," Coddington said.
Lovato tripled in a run and scored in the fifth, then had an RBI single and scored in the Panthers' five-run sixth inning.
Piedra Vista led off the sixth with three consecutive singles on Coats.
Brennon Shay hit a bloop single to center, and Jake McCasland followed with a sawed-off single to center. Dylan Ducy hit a bloop to short right that dropped when second baseman Phil Crom fell backpedaling for the ball.
Ugai relieved Coats with the bases loaded and nobody out.
He struck out Morgan McCasland, induced a nine-pitch groundout to second to retire McCall, then came within one generous strike call to get out of the jam. Ugai's 0-2 fastball to Lovato was ruled a ball just off the outside corner.
Next pitch, Lovato roped a hanging curveball back up the box for an RBI single.
Danny Simonson followed with a three-RBI triple to the left-center field wall to give Piedra Vista an 11-9 lead.
"That's just the way the game goes," Coddington said.
Lovato was 3-for-3 with a walk, a single, a double and a triple. He drove in four runs and scored twice.
Coats labored through five innings. He allowed nine runs - six earned - on eight hits in 120 pitches thrown. He walked five, struck out six and hit a batter.
"He looked much better (Tuesday) than he did (Friday)," Coddington said of Coats, who threw 82 pitches in Friday's loss to Carlsbad, N.M. "He made some good adjustments on the mound. We just gotta give him some run support."
Durango added a run in the sixth, then loaded the bases in the seventh with three consecutive walks, including Laughlin's intentional unintentional pass to Gallegos to put the game-winning run on base and the game-tying run in scoring position.
"That kid can mash," Laughlin said of Gallegos, who singled, walked twice - once intentionally - was hit by a pitch and grounded out to third.
"I did not want to pitch to him. I had visions of him hitting it onto the roof of the rodeo grounds. That was one of the few times I was happy to see my pitcher a little wild."
Taylor earned the win.
McCall earned the save.
"We've got to figure a few things out before league play," said Coddington, whose scheduled scrimmage against Brighton at home Thursday was canceled. "We've got a week-and-a-half before (Grand) Junction to work things out."