Demons’ baseball errs in opening-day defeat

Steve Lewis/Durango Herald

Durango High School second baseman Hayden Sill kept his eyes on the ball Friday, as he didn’t commit an error – a problem Friday for the Demons – while going 1-for-3 at the plate in the Demons’ home opener against Grand Junction.

By John Livingston
Herald Sports Writer

Ben Wiley had a no-hitter going through 5 2/3 innings, but even that wasn’t enough for the Durango Demons to overcome their own mistakes.

Durango High School lost its baseball home opener 10-6 to Grand Junction on Friday afternoon at Walden Memorial Field. The Grand Junction Tigers (8-3, 1-1 Southwestern League) didn’t record a hit until late in the sixth inning, but five errors by the Demons (4-5, 0-3 SWL) and six hit batters cost DHS dearly as they led directly to eight of the Tigers’ 10 runs.

“We have got to stop handing games to people, because we are playing good baseball otherwise,” DHS baseball head coach Rob Coddington said.

The game was tied 6-6 going into the seventh inning. With relief pitcher Blake Dunlap on the mound for DHS, the Tigers mounted a rally when Dunlap plunked consecutive batters with pitches with one out. Tyler Heinsma then ripped a single to the outfield to score both Tristan Lafferty and Owen Taylor. Max Fransen followed with a single of his own, and both Fransen and Heinsma scored on Durango’s fifth fielding error of the game.

That gave the Tigers a 10-6 lead, and the Demons couldn’t rally in the bottom of the seventh against Tigers relief pitcher Kaleb Coleman, who was credited with the win.

“This game was a really good indicator of mental toughness,” Grand Junction assistant coach Jeff McLaughlin said. “The boys hung around all day. It took us several innings, but things started coming together.”

The Demons built a 4-0 lead through four innings. Nine-hole hitter Riley Jaye sparked both scoring rallies. He led off the third inning with a double before scoring on a Jeremy Szura RBI single. Blake Dunlap followed with another single that scored his brother, Casey Dunlap.

Jaye had a two-out single in the bottom of the fourth inning, and he eventually scored on a two-run double off the bat of Szura that also scored Casey Dunlap. Szura was 3-for-3 in the game with four runs batted in.

The Demons tallied 10 hits in the game.

“I thought some guys came with the bats, but we still have a few people that really need to step up if we are going to win games in this conference,” Coddington said.

Grand Junction scored a pair of runs in the top of the fifth, but none of them were charged to Wiley as the Demons committed two errors in the frame.

The first two Tigers to bat in the top of the sixth reached on an error and hit-by-pitch. Wiley settled in to strike out one and force an infield pop up to get two outs, but Ty Dixon delivered the Tigers’ first hit, and he later scored on a wild pitch. Dillon Fante delivered a two-run double against Wiley later in the inning. One walk later, and Wiley’s day was done.

Wiley gave up two hits while striking out four. He hit four batters with pitches and walked another. He was charged with two of the six runs that crossed the plate on his watch.

“I think I definitely have been improving, but, at the same time, I have stuff I have to work on,” said Wiley, son of Ann and Greg Wiley. “I have to work on my control and keeping things within my head. I can only worry about what I can control.”

Wiley said the errors committed behind him started to pile up in the back of his mind.

“Those (errors) get me frazzled, to be honest; it is tough to come back from errors like those,” Wiley said.

DHS entered the bottom of the sixth trailing 6-4 but came back to tie the game. Jaye drew a one-out walk and scored on a Szura RBI single. Szura then stole second and scored on a Blake Dunlap single.

Jaye was 2-for-3 with a double and three runs scored for DHS.

“He did a great job at the bottom of the lineup. I always bat a guy in the nine-hole that is a tough out with a good approach,” Coddington said of Jaye. “He did a great job getting on base and flipping the lineup over.”

Neil Ryan started on the mound for the Tigers. He pitched five innings and gave up seven hits while striking out four and walking two in a no-decision.

McLaughlin said the Tigers were thrilled to come from behind and take the road victory.

“Any road win is gold,” he said. “Anytime we can come to Durango and pick up a win, it is outstanding. It is a tough place to play where they have a lot of talent and are well-coached. Our guys can hold their head’s high.”

The Demons have a short turnaround before hosting Grand Junction Central (9-2, 2-1 SWL) at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. The Warriors beat No. 1-ranked Montrose last week and defeated Montezuma-Cortez 14-3 on Friday.

“We have to come to the park and play on our toes and try to make plays. We have to stay off our heels,” Coddington said.

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