While the opening day results did not go as planned for the Durango High School softball team, the Demons still have plenty to look forward to for the 2018 season.
The Demons (0-2, 0-2 Southwestern League) lost its first two games of the season to Fruita Monument with losses of 13-12 and 12-2 but still managed to come away with positives to take for the rest of the season.
“We really need to keep our energy up (throughout the game) and play as a team, rather than to play as individuals,” said pitcher Tori Raybourn. “I feel like we’re a very strong team, and I feel like we can continue that through the season.”
The Demons got off to a spell-binding start in the first game of the doubleheader, coming back from two runs in the fifth inning to put up 11 on the scoreboard. However, Durango was unable to close out the game, and the team’s energy levels became depleted when they needed them most.
With Durango leading 12-5 in the top of the seventh inning, Fruita (2-0, 2-0 SWL) put together a seven-run comeback, all with two outs, capped off by a game-tying double by Jacque Temple. The Demons had a chance to win it in the bottom half of the inning after Emma Candelaria’s third double of the afternoon, but she was ultimately left stranded, and the teams went to extra innings. In the extra frame, Fruita scored the winning run after Temple struck again with a double to left field.
Demons head coach Melissa Fundora said that, despite losing the lead late, she expects the team to be competitive this season.
“One thing that we’ve focused on is that they’ve set the standard high,” Fundora said. “They competed with a good team in our league, and Fruita’s always been a great competitor, so the fact that we competed, that’s huge. They’ve set the bar high, and so there are still some things to work on.”
Fundora specifically cited the mental aspect of the game, where one inning in both games did the Demons in. If the Demons can clean up their play, they could be a tough team to beat, Fundora said.
“If we can eliminate that one rough inning, those games we either win, or we’re still in it,” Fundora said. “So, if you take that out, those are two winnable games.”
Fundora, in her third year at DHS, will look to veteran leadership in order to get victories. Last year, the Demons went 10-9-1 and just 1-7 in the Southwestern League. Players such as Virginia Herr, a senior who went 1-for-2 with a double and a run batted in during the second game, believes that this class is aiming to set up the Demons for the long-term future.
“I think we’re going to be improving a lot this year,” Herr said. “I don’t think we would’ve done so well last year just five practices in. I think that this year, we could push and be a good team. I look at my fellow seniors for leadership because I’ve known them the most and all have a sense of pride for the team.”
This appears to be a different team than last year, as the Demons lost 18-12 and 23-6 in both games last season to Fruita. Fundora said the seniors are fully committed to elevating the program to a new set of standards.
“This group of girls especially, they are so committed. We’re really building a program now,” Fundora said. “We’ve got a full JV, a full varsity, which we haven’t had in some of my years coaching past, so we’re building something here.”
Having Fundora at DHS in her third year isn’t only helpful for the program, but players as well. Herr thinks of Fundora as more than just her coach.
“It’s nice because she knows what I am comfortable with and what I’m not comfortable with,” Herr said. “If I have something that I know will be a problem for me, she’ll be able to know that before-hand and I won’t have to talk to her about it; she’ll already know.”
In the second game, the Demons were shelled early and often, as the Wildcats offense did not lose a step in the hitting department. They scored nine runs in the first two innings. The inning was highlighted by a grand-slam home run from Katie Sparks. In spite of the loss, both Fundora and Herr spoke to the team’s character and chemistry that will be needed to win games this season.
Fundora said that the results were ones to build on, but she feels that the Demons are about to turn the corner.
“We are building a softball program here,” Fundora said. “That’s what we want to leave behind, and so the biggest thing is their chemistry on and off the field. They just get along well and you can see it together.
“Some of those little things we’ll keep working on. But overall, after five practices, going out there and competing well, that’s because of who this team is.”
The Demons will travel to Colorado Springs next Saturday where they will take on Sierra.