It wasnt quite like this last year.
Before the 2011 campaign, the Durango High School softball team wasnt coming off a playoff appearance, a 10-0 start or anything quite in the same neighborhood of positive results as a postseason berth.
As for this year?
Welcome, Demons, to the world of high expectations.
DHS returns six of nine starters from last seasons 12-8 team, including All-Southwestern League first-teamer Mackenzie Sill and second-team performer Mercy Lashway. Thanks to the returners, expectations are high not just in the Durango camp, but outside of it as well.
Still, sixth-year head coach John Bernazzani said that having plenty of returners doesnt necessarily guarantee success.
I tell the girls, once again, to not assume anything to show up on the field, play hard and impress someone, he said.
Senior Mikayla Jeffryes admitted that last year, for a time, it seemed like DHS had reached its peak. But after a fairly successful summer slate and a smattering of practices, shes feeling good about 2012.
At first, I was nervous because I thought ... we peaked last year, for sure, and I thought that was going to be the best season wed pretty much ever have, said Jeffryes, daughter of Brenda and Brian Jeffryes. But after we got started and after Ive seen the new team and the new team members, I think we can do the same thing this year that we did last year.
Theres also the matter of replacing the starters lost. Corner outfielders Abby Surmeier and Alyssa Spencer graduated, and shortstop Taylor Roster opted not to return this season.
Rosters loss means Sill, who played a solid defensive third base a season ago to go with a .413 average and 17 RBIs, will slide over to shortstop, leaving a gap at third that Bernazzani said could be filled by either Hailey Baker or Sidney Corbin, who primarily played first base last year.
Shortstop is definitely different than third base, but Im going to do my best to help the team out there, said Sill, daughter of Chris and Monica Sill.
Baker also could figure into the corner outfield openings, alongside Aztec High School transfer Lexy Vidunas, Corrisa Bosick and Deryn Candelaria, while Cindy Kobrin could see action either in the outfield or at first base depending on Corbins spot in the lineup.
For the center fielder, this means adjusting to new playing partners in the outfield and quickly. There hasnt been much practice time to get communication down pat before todays opening doubleheader against Grand Junction Central. The confident Jeffryes, however, was undaunted.
Its definitely been different. Communications a lot different. ... Theyre good. Theyre solid outfielders, Jeffryes said. I think theyre going to be fine. It just takes time.
Continuity reigns up the middle of the diamond, starting with second baseman Chanel McCloskey. However, the Bayfield High School product was cleared just Monday after suffering a strained medial collateral ligament at a basketball camp, so it may take her some time to get up to speed.
Getting back in the swing of things should be no problem for Lashway and pitcher Augusta Brockus. The two sophomores will combine again in the battery this year after a productive summer together, and Bernazzani had high praise for both in terms of their increased strength and maturity heading into their second high school season.
Alleviating some of the pressure on Brockus will be Vidunas, who played with both Lashway and Brockus on summer teams growing up. Bernazzani said hes hoping Vidunas will help Durango form a potent 1-2 punch in the circle, particularly for doubleheaders, helping to limit the heavy workload Brockus dealt with last year.
Thats certainly a best-case scenario to have an A and a B, a one and a two ... we didnt have a lot of that last year, Bernazzani said.
Vidunas also has the added bonus of freeing up Brockus to catch to occassionally spell Lashway, and Bernazzani said he plans to keep whichever pitcher thats not in the circle in the lineup.
Replicating last years start wont be an easy task, given that DHSs Class 5A Southwestern League foes account for the Demons first six games of the season. But after last years unexpected jolt of success, itd be hard to count them out.