Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
The Durango High School baseball team proved early that last year’s playoff exit at Delta’s hands was a distant memory.
Then, they remembered defeat.
The fifth-seeded Demons lost 7-4 to No. 12 Cañon City in the District 4 tournament championship game Saturday at DHS.
Cañon City, which defeated No. 21 Wheat Ridge 11-1 in five innings Saturday at DHS to reach the district championship game, will play in the elite eight of the CHSAA Class 4A Boys Baseball State Championships next week on the Front Range.
The Demons hurt themselves with four errors in the finale, which led to four unearned runs, including two unearned runs in the Tigers’ four-run sixth that turned a 3-3 tie into a 7-3 edge.
George Mayberry homered in the bottom of the seventh, but the rally ended there.
“It’s definitely a bummer. It happens; it’s one of those things that’s a part of baseball. ... You can’t dwell on it now; you have to move on,” said Danny Rowley, son of Darren and Kari Rowley.
Before the ill-fated sixth, Durango battled back twice to tie. Cañon City scored twice on a throwing error with two outs in the fourth to go ahead 3-1. But Blake Dunlap’s RBI double and a run-scoring single from Mayberry tied the game.
In the first inning, Brandon Rix’s sacrifice fly plated Matt Schwindt to put the 12th-seeded Tigers on top. DHS responded in the second with an RBI single off the bat of Mayberry.
“I’m proud of them for fighting back. These guys do that a lot, but we just weren’t able to close it off in the end there,” DHS head coach Rob Coddington said.
Aside from Mayberry’s homer and the hiccup in the fourth, Rix was solid on the mound in relief. Tyler Green, who threw all five innings in the win over Wheat Ridge, started the second game as well because, as head coach Tim Ritter said, he didn’t want Rix to get started and then sit because of rain. There were dark clouds looming at the time.
Rix threw 5 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on four hits while striking out five and walking none.
“He didn’t have his secondary pitches (Saturday), but he was grinding through it, and at the end, he was pretty tough,” Ritter said of his pitcher.
“He threw strikes with his off-speed pitches as much as he did with his fastballs,” Coddington said of Rix.
Mayberry took the loss in relief for DHS, going 1/3 of an inning while allowing four runs, only two of which were earned. At the plate, Mayberry was 3-for-3 with three RBIs.
Rowley allowed three runs – one earned – in five innings while allowing just three hits in a starting role for DHS.
“They were knocking on the door all day, and we did a good job of shutting them down,” Coddington said. “They got a few there in the sixth and kind of ran away with it – just couldn’t climb back in it.”
Logan Nethercot was 2-for-4 for the Tigers with two runs scored and an RBI, and Evan Kerr drove in a pair for Cañon City.
In Game 1, DHS scored six times in the first inning, four in the second and seven in the fourth for a resounding 17-0, five-inning win over Delta.
Everyone in the Demons’ starting lineup had a hit. Joe Keresey finished a home run shy of the cycle, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored. Rowley doubled, tripled and drove in a run, and Dunlap was 2-for-2 with a double, a triple, three driven in and two runs scored. Mayberry, who pitched a scoreless fifth inning, was 3-for-3 with three RBIs and a double.
Joe Brennan (7-2) picked up the win for the Demons (13-8), throwing four innings and allowing just two hits while striking out two and walking one.
Delta (11-9), seeded 28th, mustered just four total hits, two of which came from sophomore Keaton Reiher, who was 2-for-3.
DHS will lose nine seniors to graduation, but Coddington said he should have another quality squad next year as the Demons look to get past their district’s road block.
“If we can get over the hump of getting through our districts – we haven’t done that since I’ve been here as an assistant coach and a head coach. And I feel that’s an important goal for us as a program is to get through that district tournament and compete in that final eight,” Coddington said.