Nearly a month on the road has made the Durango Demons a tougher baseball team.
But, after dropping their first two Southwestern League games of the season, a home game is just what the doctor ordered.
“It is going to be nice to sleep in our own beds. We will have a different focus playing on our home field in front of our home crowd. It is good to be off the road,” DHS head coach Rob Coddington.
The Demons enter their home opener at 3:30 p.m. Friday against Grand Junction (7-3, 0-1 SWL) with a 4-4 record but they have an 0-2 record in the SWL after tough losses to Fruita Monument and Montrose, the No. 1-ranked team in Class 4A in the CHSAANow.com poll.
DHS also plays at home at 12:30 p.m. Saturday against Grand Junction Central (8-2, 1-1 SWL).
“We have to learn from those games and come after it. Grand Junction and Central are both good teams, and Central beat Montrose the other day,” Coddington said. “Grand Junction won some games down in Arizona. There really isn’t a weak team in our conference this year. Every team is in the mix, so we have to stay competitive and rack up as many wins at home as we can.”
Ace pitcher Ben Wiley will get the ball to start Friday’s game against the Tigers. Wiley, who plans to be a walk on for the Florida Gulf Coast University baseball team, is a 6-foot-6, 195-pound pitcher with plenty of experience.
The Demons’ success comes largely down to making the plays in the field while trying to avoid compounding errors.
“Our biggest emphasis will be throwing strikes and playing defense,” Coddington said.
DHS swung the bats well in the first seven games of the season before being held scoreless by Montrose ace Tyrus Lopez in a 16-0 loss last Saturday. Led by players such as Blake and Casey Dunlap, Zac Gasaway, Isiah Mayberry, Jeremy Szura, Bryce VonTersch and Wyatt Wymore, the Demons have plenty of boys who can swing the bats well.
Coddington wants to see the team take an aggressive approach at the plate while coming up with more clutch hits.
“We have got to have two-out hits and good two-strike hitting. We have to stay within ourselves and chip away instead of trying to swing for eight-run home runs, so to speak,” Coddington said. “We can string hits together and the whole team can try to be a tough out; we have plenty of capable kids one through nine.”
After this weekend’s home series, the Demons turn around next weekend to host Fruita Monument at Montrose. Coddington hopes to gain momentum this weekend before going into the games against the two top teams in the SWL.
“Any momentum you can gain in our conference is big. It is one of the most competitive in the state with the 5A and 4A teams,” he said. “Several of the teams have a chance to go to the playoffs, especially with the wild card point system. We have to get after it starting now.”