Durango already has had two playoff opponents, and the Demons haven’t even played a game yet.
The Durango High School baseball team was set to play Golden on Saturday at Canyon View Park in Grand Junction in the Class 4A District 4 tournament when the brackets were released Wednesday. But after a series of appeals and a reevaluation by the Colorado High School Activities Association, Niwot was in as the No. 21 seed and Golden out in a decision made Thursday.
The reasoning? Season records for two of Niwot’s opponents this season, Ada, Okla., and Edmond Santa Fe, N.M., were incomplete on MaxPreps.com, from which information is taken to determine wild-card points, according to a story on BoCoPreps.com. And after reconciling their records, Niwot’s strength of schedule pushed the school ahead of Golden for the playoff spot.
Golden? Niwot? The opponent matters less to DHS (9-10) than what the No. 12 seed can control itself, head coach Rob Coddington said.
“We’ve got to show up and play everybody; that’s how we’re approaching it,” Coddington said. “We didn’t know much on Golden, so we’re pretty much in the same boat.
“We’ve got to hit the ball, pitch and play defense. We’ve just got to come after them.”
Statistically, the Cougars (10-9) seem to be the inverse of the Demons. Durango boasts the more powerful offense, having scored 202 runs and accrued a batting average of .372 this season to 110 runs and a .268 team average for Niwot. By contrast, Niwot has a fielding percentage of .947 to the Demons’ .906 and has a team earned-run average of 3.59 to Durango’s 7.52.
Getting to the Cougars’ staff early, as is the case in any playoff game, is key, but perhaps more so to get some early breathing room to help the Demons’ pitching staff settle in.
“You’ve got to jump up on people and stay up,” Coddington said. “We can only control what we do. ... We can control how much we throw strikes, and we can control swinging at good pitches.
“The first weekend at districts there’s a lot of pressure, and if we can be the team the puts the other team under pressure more so than the other team puts it on us, then I think we’ve got a good shot.”
Putting early pressure on Niwot, then potentially either No. 5 Palisade or No. 28 Pueblo West in the district championship, would help ease that pressure on Durango’s pitching staff, which is looking to settle in for the playoffs.
Jeremy Szura likely will get the call against Niwot, Coddington said, and the Demons’ skipper said he’s hoping to rely on Szura, Ben Wiley and Ty Elliott as Durango tries to push for a berth in the double-elimination state tournament. And if they can hold up their end as part of a complete all-around effort, a berth isn’t out of the question.
“It always starts with good pitching ... and can you support good pitching and good defense with your bats. ... I’m looking forward to the three of them getting us some outs,” Coddington said.