The Durango High School baseball team wasn’t happy to see Glenwood Springs score five runs in the top of the seventh inning to come from behind and win the first game of a doubleheader 8-6 on Friday.
DHS sophomore pitcher Gage Mestas took it upon himself to not let it happen again in Game 2. Mestas threw a seven-inning shutout in which he struck out 16 batters. He allowed only three base runners all game. His no-hitter was broken up with two outs in the sixth inning on a hard-hit groundball from Sebastian Gonzalez that got through the hole between shortstop and third base past the diving attempt of Durango third baseman Elias Fiddler. After the single, Mestas struck out three of the final four Glenwood Springs batters of the game to help send DHS to a 4-0 win to split the home doubleheader.
“I’ve been working really hard on the off-speed pitches, pushing my limits and throwing it more than I usually would,” Mestas said. “Once you trust your ability, it falls in for a strike and does what you want it to do. You just have to trust it.”
Mestas had struggled with his curveball and changeup early in the season, but it began to click a week earlier in a 5-1 home win against Kirtland Central, as he struck out nine and allowed only four hits and one run in five innings.
Friday, Mestas was even better, and he made the Glenwood Springs batters guess at every pitch by mixing up his offerings.
“The kid had four pitches. He had full command of all four pitches. They looked invisible,” said Glenwood Springs assistant coach Joe Fries, who filled in for head coach Eric Nieslanik after he was ejected in the first inning of Game 1 for questioning a non-balk call. “We were trying to hit the first-pitch fastball. Every time we were looking for it, he threw something else. He’s a pitcher, and we haven’t seen that. He’s probably the best we’ve seen yet.”
The first Glenwood Springs batter reached in the top of the fourth inning, as Dylan Lee got on base when a fly ball was dropped in shallow center field. Mestas would pick Lee off, as he tried to steal second base early and Mestas was able to step off the mound and throw him out at second base.
Mestas issued a walk to Garrett Dollahan in the fifth inning. Mestas got ahead in the count 1-2, but an umpire called time after a foul ball to observe the national anthem being played at the adjacent stadium before the Durango boys lacrosse team played Montrose. Mestas thought he had a strikeout with a 2-2 fastball that was called a ball, and he eventually walked to Glenwood Springs hitter.
“That was kind of hard to regroup, actually,” Mestas said of the nearly two-minute break in action without being given a warmup pitch when play resumed. “I ended up walking that guy, but I focused up and remembered I had to just buckle down and throw the ball.”
Mestas struck out the next batter to strike out the side. He then struck out the first two Glenwood batters in the sixth before Gonzalez’s single broke up his no-hitter.
Durango took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning without recording a hit. Niko Mestas led off the inning with a walk and reached third after Gage Mestas was hit by a pitch and Dawson Marcum drew a walk. Niko Mestas would score on a wild pitch.
Durango plated three runs in the fourth on a three-run double off the bat of Cal Walsh that scored Fynn Hyson, Gage Mestas and Marcum. It was a big hit for Walsh, who also had a three-run home run in the bottom of the first inning in Game 1.
“I was feeling good and seeing the ball well out of the hand and knew I’d have a good day at the plate,” Walsh said. “Gage was pitching well, and I wanted to pick him up. He didn’t have much run support, and I knew I had to help him out.”
Gage Mestas was 3-for-4 at the plate in Game 1, but the Demons didn’t do much after a four-run first inning powered by Walsh’s homer. Hyson pitched a solid game in the opener, but five walks cut into his pitch count. Hyson threw 5 2/3 innings and allowed four hits and struck out six, but he walked five. Al Hurworth came on in relief and was tagged for the big five-run seventh by Glenwood Springs.
Both teams will begin league play next week, and Fries said getting to see Mestas on the mound will have his team more prepared for league.
“That’s kind of why we came,” the former Durango Herald sports writer said. “Our head coach knew (Mestas) would be throwing; we had heard about him. It was advantageous for us. We weren’t expecting him to humiliate us, but it’s good for us to see that because we don’t see a lot of dominant pitching like that in our league. That kid is a pitcher.”