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Durango thumps Montezuma-Cortez on home field, 19-2

Durango Demons pitcher Elias Fidler watches his pitch head over the plate against the Montezuma-Cortez Panthers in Cortez on Tuesday, June 8, 2021.
Panthers fall to 8-7 overall and await postseason fate

It has been quite a year for La Plata County baseball, and the Durango Demons hope that it’s only the beginning. Barnstorming into the 4A postseason, head coach Rob Coddington has the Demons offense firing on all cylinders, after posting one of their winningest seasons in school history, capped off with a 19-2 win over Montezuma-Cortez on Tuesday evening.

Durango (14-2, 6-2 5A/4A Southwestern League) bounced back from their only two losses of the season against Fruita Monument in emphatic fashion, putting up eight runs in the first two innings against the Panthers to set up the win at McAndrew Field.

Seven different players collected hits for Coddington’s squad, a level of balance that the Demons would love to carry into the playoffs, paced by a three-hit performance from senior standout Gage Mestas. The multi-sport star reached safely in five out of his six plate appearances, as the Demons feasted on singles (12) and walks (11) to churn out runs against M-CHS pitching.

Four other Demons joined Mestas with multi-hit games, including seniors Fiddler, Noah Pritchard, Cal Walsh, and junior Chase Robertson. Eight runs in the top of the seventh inning sent the seniors off in style in their regular season finale.

Meanwhile, Durango pitching limited a high-flying Panther offense to just a pair of hits, as senior Elias Fiddler took the starting assignment and the victory, working five innings while walking two and striking out three. Fiddler’s efficiency on the mound, requiring only 65 offerings to collect 15 outs, helped keep the Panther batters on their heels.

The Demons join Bayfield in La Plata County dominance of Southwest Colorado baseball this spring, as the Wolverines captured the 3A Intermountain League title just a couple days before, finishing a place in front of head coach Tim Passell’s M-CHS Panthers.

Montezuma-Cortez (8-7, 5-3 3A Intermountain League) scratched across single runs in both the second and fifth innings to get on the board, but the offense couldn’t find the same stride that punished Centauri for 19 runs in a doubleheader sweep this past weekend.

M-CHS pitching combined to strike out 11 Demons on the evening, and Passell’s squad will want to continue similar numbers heading into the 3A postseason. The Panthers, who entered Tuesday night’s bout ranked 18th in the 3A RPI rankings, have sat on the edge of the CHSAA Coaches’ Poll all season, and know that they will face a tough road challenge when CHSAA releases its 24-team field this weekend.

The Panthers will lean on their senior leaders, Ty Blackmer, Dylan Kibel, Ernie Padilla, and Korie Likes, to make noise in the postseason, with their sights on capping the program’s first campaign over .500 in well over a decade.

Durango, meanwhile, sits atop the 4A RPI standings, while earning first-place nods in the Coaches’ Poll, sitting just behind Ponderosa and Cheyenne Mountain, and appears poised to be one of the eight host sites for the regional rounds of the 4A state tournament.

The Colorado High School Activities Association will release its playoff fields for all five classifications this weekend, with postseason baseball to take place beginning June 14th. A double elimination bracket state tournament will follow for the regional champions, set to begin on June 18th, and running until a champion is crowned on the weekend of June 25th-26th.