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M-CHS softball overpowers Durango, sweeps series

Montezuma-Cortez pitcher Devyn Cornett delivers a pitch Aug. 22 in a road win against Durango. On Sept. 10, she struck out eight Demons while walking just one to pick up the victory. (Cody Olivas/Durango Herald)
Panthers climb above .500, prepare for big league games

CORTEZ – There won’t be any split decision this year: Montezuma-Cortez will take the title belt from rival Durango by unanimous decision.

The Panthers took down the Demons for the second time this season, earning a 7-3 win at Parque de Vida on Sept. 10 to deny Durango’s bid to split their annual home-and-home series for a fourth consecutive year.

M-CHS (7-6, 2-3 3A WSL) rallied from an early 3-0 deficit, taking the lead for good on an RBI groundout from senior Trenity Tillahash, scoring junior Abigail Coffey in the bottom of the second to give the Panthers a 4-3 lead. From there, solid pitching and defense helped the Panthers shut down Durango to push M-CHS back above .500.

Junior Kenzie Whipple enjoyed a banner day for the Panthers, clobbering her first career home run with a two-run shot in the fifth inning to give the Panthers some breathing room, up 6-3. Classmate Emily Carver would reach base before the courtesy runner would score the final run of the game an inning later, driven in on a double from freshman Reagan Veach.

“Kenzie’s become a really consistent hitter for us,” said M-CHS head coach Anthony “Hippo” Frost. “She’s been taking a better approach at the plate each game.”

Whipple, Tillahash, Carver and Veach all posted multi-hit days, part of an 11-hit output for the Panthers offense.

“It felt great to help my team out,” said Whipple of her two-run blast, “there was a lot of adrenaline going through my body.”

Things started brightly for Durango (2-10, 1-3 5A/4A SWL), when sophomore Cori Davis capitalized on a couple of early base runners, blasting a three-run home run in the top of the first inning to give the visitors the lead.

From there, junior pitcher Devyn Cornett was lights-out. The right-hander allowed only two hits over the remainder of the ballgame, facing just three Demons over the minimum through the final six innings. Cornett fanned eight Demons while walking just one to pick up the victory.

“Our junior class has really stepped up as leaders,” commended Frost, “and they’ve really proven they’re committed to the program and to each other.”

“We’ve been playing together since we were young,” added Whipple of the large contingent of Class of 2025 on the Panthers roster. “We’re all great friends – and we all think alike, which helps us when it comes to leadership.”

Demons senior Kelly Arthur battled the tough M-CHS lineup for 4⅓ innings, before sophomore Jenna Glueck closed out the final 1⅔ innings. The duo accounted for five strikeouts and allowed just one walk in the losing effort.

The Panthers posted a 2-2 record in the previous weekend’s action at Berthoud, facing 4A and 5A competition with wins over Fountain Fort Carson and Poudre.

“Going up there (Berthoud) and seeing a different style of play helped up us with motivation,” added Frost, “and we hope that those results will help us keep winning games as we get back to our big league games.”

“We adjusted well to the faster games – faster pitching especially – at Berthoud,” said Whipple, “but with the different speed of the game, it made us work together a lot better.”

M-CHS hits a pivotal two week stretch ahead, with league contests against Meeker on Sept. 23, Delta on Oct. 3 and Basalt on Oct. 5. The Panthers sit in the middle of a logjam in the 3A Western Slope, hoping that a strong finish can propel them into another postseason run.

The Demons also prepare for life on the road in the coming weeks, traveling to Basalt on Sept. 23 before taking on Palisade the following Friday.