Jerry McBride/Durango Herald
The bleacher seats and folding chairs at Durango High School needed seatbelts Friday.
This baseball game was a roller coaster.
Fruita Monument led twice and Durango three times, and it was a three-run rally in the bottom of the seventh that pushed DHS to a dramatic 12-11 win Friday, keeping the Demons in first place in the Southwestern League.
Ty Elliott said Friday’s victory took the top spot in the craziest games he’s ever been a part of, especially the enthusiasm on both benches.
“It’s probably the wildest I’ve ever seen, anyway, going back and forth with the both benches,” he said.
Durango senior Joe Keresey factored big time into the final result. DHS trailed 11-9 going into the seventh inning after losing leads of 6-0 and 9-8, and the lanky lefty kept the Wildcats at bay in the top half, keeping the Demons within striking distance to pick up his first win of the season on the mound.
Keresey then led off the bottom of the seventh with a two-strike single off lefty Walker Williams, who had shown a propensity for throwing two-strike curveballs but tried to fool Keresey with a fastball.
“I was expecting to get a curveball, but he threw a fastball down around my knees, so it was one of those pitches I kind of just reached down and hit,” said Keresey, son of Cindy and DHS athletic director Sheldon Keresey.
After a strikeout, Easton Garcia singled on an 0-2 offering, and Connor Dugan walked to load the bases with one out. Ty Elliott, playing in the game after Mark Kobrin’s ejection for arguing balls and strikes, made the most of his only at-bat of the game, singling to right field to score a pair and tie the game.
“I stayed back, and it was a fastball, and I was able to go down and poke it to right field,” said Elliott, son of Ahne and Russ Elliott.
After a groundout, Danny Rowley was walked intentionally, and Blake Dunlap’s groundball to second seemed destined to push the game to extras. But the throw pulled the first baseman off the bag, and Dugan scored the winning run on the error.
“Every single one of those guys ... just outstanding. An awesome job of all our guys fighting until the end (Friday),” DHS head coach Rob Coddington said.
The rally capped quite the wild ride for both squads.
DHS jumped out early, scoring six runs in the first inning off Fruita Monument starter Doran Wood, and Joe Brennan looked poised to make it hold up, taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning.
But after losing the no-hitter on Evan McDermott’s single to open the fifth, things got shaky for DHS.
Fruita Monument responded with an eight-run inning, with the big blast coming from New Mexico signee Drew Bridges, who homered to right-center to give the Wildcats its first lead.
“I think he might have got a little bit ahead of himself, but I thought through four, he looked as good as I’ve ever seen him,” Coddington said of Brennan. “Fruita’s a good baseball team, and you have to stay focused.”
Durango rallied right back, pulling ahead 9-8 with a three-run fifth. Christian Vigil’s RBI infield single plated Rowley, and Garcia’s fielder’s choice plated Brennan. Keresey scored on a balk by Williams, which prompted an argument from Fruita coach Ray McLennan, who subsequently was restricted to the bench and walked off trying to pump up the visiting fans by waving his arms.
Kobrin struck out looking to end the frame and was ejected for arguing the call. Ejections carry automatic one-game suspensions, making Kobrin unavailable for today’s game against Grand Junction Central.
Fruita Monument responded with three runs in the sixth. Logan McClennan’s sacrifice fly and McDermott’s two-out, two-RBI double plated the runs, setting the stage for Durango’s great escape.
Keresey was 3-for-4 with three runs scored, and Easton Garcia was 3-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI. Dunlap doubled twice, drove in a run and scored once for the Demons (9-4, 4-1 SWL).
Wild ride or otherwise, the victory gave DHS a much-needed sweep over Fruita Monument (9-5, 3-3 SWL), knocking the Wildcats down to the middle of the pack after they entered the week tied for first. DHS, meanwhile, moves a half-game up on Montrose for first place with four games to go in the league.
“To keep ourselves in the driver’s seat is huge. We haven’t been in that spot much the last few years through the league season, and it’s big for us to do that,” Coddington said.