Durango High School had more fielding errors than runs scored Friday, and the eight errors matched as many hits the Demons put together. It added up to a lopsided 19-7 loss in a run-rule shortened five-inning game in the league opener against Fruita Monument.
The Wildcats (5-6, 3-2 5A/4A Southwestern League) scored seven runs in the second and third innings on some hard-hit balls but also thanks to five errors in the two innings by Durango (5-8, 0-1 SWL). The miscues didn’t allow Durango starting pitcher Fynn Hyson to escape a few mistake pitches of his own, as only six of the 14 runs that crossed during his four innings of work were earned.
“We had some defensive problems there, and sometimes you let a team get going and they just seem to explode on ya,” DHS head coach Eric Baker said. “They squared up plenty of balls, too – can’t ignore that. I’m not sure they square up that many balls in (batting practice) normally. Nobody does. Once in awhile, it happens to ya.
“It always sets ya back on your heels when you have some miscues, and today we just couldn’t seem to stop it.”
Hyson threw a perfect first inning with two strikeouts thanks to pinpoint accuracy with his curveball and a willingness to throw his fastball inside. In the second inning, the Wildcats were content to watch the curveball and swing at fastballs and drive the pitch to the opposite field.
The second inning onslaught all began because of an error at third base on a routine ground ball. DHS had four errors at third base in the game, three of the throwing variety, including the first in the second inning. With Marcus Lee aboard on the error, Cort McDaniel followed with a triple that scored Lee. A Dylan Weaver single then scored McDaniel, and Fruita again had a pair on base after a Carson Crone single.
Hyson got Kelby Boone to swing and miss at a curveball in the dirt for a third strike, but the throw down to first base to complete the out sailed wide of the bag and allowed Boone to reach base to load them up. Jacob Weaver then brought home a run when he was hit by a Hyson pitch. A batter later, Fruita leadoff man Keenan Garcia hit a harmless grounder back to the mound. Hyson fielded it with a chance to turn a double play. He first threw home to get the force-out, but he sailed the short throw over his catcher’s head, and two runs scored as the ball trickled to the backstop.
Durango could have been out of the inning, but Tucker Buniger came through with a sacrifice fly to score a run, and Brady Vidmar followed with an RBI-single before Durango got out of the inning suddenly down 7-0.
Crone started the third inning for Fruita with a one-out double. He scored on a Boone single. Two more DHS errors led to runs to go along with a Buniger sacrifice fly for an RBI and a Lee RBI-double. Dylan Weaver capped the inning with a two-run double for good measure.
Fruita Monument head coach Ray McLennan credited his team’s approach at the plate to a drill the team uses in practice in homage to fictional character Willie Mays Hayes from “Major League.” In the movie, manager Lou Brown has Hayes do 10 push ups every time he hits the ball in the air during batting practice. McLennan gives his players three swings, and for every ball they hit that isn’t on the ground or a hard line drive, they do push ups.
“We’ve had some kids have to do 50 push-ups, and then we go double-or-nothing at the end,” he said. “That creates pressure at-bats, and sometimes kids end up doing 100 push-ups. It’s a way to emphasize positive things, and it never hurts to do push-ups and gain strength. I think that’s helped us a bit.”
Jacob Weaver had a big day at the nine-hole spot in the Fruita lineup. He went 2-for-3 with four RBIs and three runs scored. Dylan Weaver also had four RBIs during a 3-for-4 day in which he scored twice.
Lee pitched Fruita to victory with his effectively wild fastball and curveball that dove out of the strike zone to confuse DHS hitters. In five innings, he gave up eight hits and seven earned runs while striking out five and walking two.
The Demons got within 14-7 with a six-run fourth inning. Freshman Jordan Stanley, who was 3-for-3 with a triple, two runs scored and two RBIs, led off with a single and scored on a Gus Kidd double. Sten Joyner then singled, and Niko Mestas drove a two-run double to the gap. Cal Walsh also had an RBI-single before Stanley had a big two-run single to cap off the scoring.
Kidd was 1-for-2 in the game with two RBIs with another on a sacrifice fly that scored Stanley in the second.
Hyson exited after three innings and was relieved by Joyner, who allowed another five runs in the fifth after a scoreless fourth. Two errors cost DHS to start the fifth inning before a Dylan Weaver RBI-double and a Jacob Weaver three-run double.
DHS will hope to salvage a split in the weekend series when the two teams meet again at 10 a.m. Saturday, as sophomore ace Gage Mestas will take the mound after two sterling starts in his last two outings. Last Friday against Glenwood Springs, he allowed only one hit and one walk in seven innings to go with 16 strikeouts.
McLennan expected to see Mestas on Friday but said his team will be ready for the challenge Saturday,
“We’ve been talking about him all week,” McLennan said. “We saw what he did against Glenwood, and that’s impressive. We gotta make sure we’re ready to go tomorrow and execute and do small-ball stuff to put pressure on him and hope to have good, quality at-bats.”