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Durango softball just misses postseason

Demons lose finale to Palisade
Teagan Kehm fires off a pitch during a practice this fall. Kehm was one of several seniors in Durango’s lineup this season. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

The Durango High School softball team lost its regular season finale against Palisade, 19-9, on Saturday at Colorado Mesa University.

Unfortunately for DHS, it will be the team’s final game this season.

When the state’s regional playoff brackets were released Monday, the Demons, who finished 13-10 overall, narrowly missed the cut. DHS finished No. 33 in Class 4A’s Ratings Percentage Index and only 32 teams advanced to the post season. No. 32 Silver Creek also missed the playoffs to accommodate the 4A/3A Colorado Springs Metro South League champion Coronado (15-8, 11-0), which finished No. 37 in RPI.

“It was a pretty sad deal yesterday,” said DHS head coach John Bernazzani. “We fell short of our goal to play on Oct. 16, but it was still an incredible season.”

The team’s 13 wins, for instance, set a new program record for the Demons. The team’s players also put up some impressive offensive stats.

One more win, anywhere throughout the season, however, would have likely propelled DHS into the postseason, the coach said.

“I felt the girls deserved to make it this year,” Bernazzani said. “But in retrospect, we have to work better on defensive stuff to get out of the middle of the pack to make the playoffs.”

Last year, DHS was in a similar position. The team finished No. 32 in the final RPI, but only 16 teams made the COVID-shortened playoffs.

Several teams made the playoffs with a lower winning percentage than DHS, leading Bernazzani to say he needed a “tougher schedule.”

On Saturday, Palisade, which also was on the playoff bubble, celebrated the team’s seniors. DHS captain Sydney Flores let her teammates know they had something to play for, Bernazzani said.

Palisade’s bats, however, were hot.

“Palisade smacked the ball around,” the coach said. “They were not going to be shut down.”

The Bulldogs jumped out to an 8-0 lead after two innings. DHS responded with five runs in the top of the third, but Palisade plated another eight in the bottom of the inning.

In the fourth inning, DHS scored four runs, but Palisade responded with three in the fifth to end the contest early.

One offensive highlight for DHS was Flores smashing a two-run home run over the right field fence. Flores, Mia Baguskas and Teagan Kehm all scored two runs, and Kelly Arthur, Alaysia Kremer and Tehya Barnes each scored once.

Defensively, the Demons committed five errors in the game.

“They kept chipping away, but we got bit by the poor defensive bug again,” Bernazzani said. “I think that was the Achilles heel for us all year.”

The team’s seniors include Carly Piccoli, Meah Mordecai, Baguskas, Kehm, Flores and Macy Moore.

“I think they were incredible,” the coach said.

Flores hit five home runs, scored 34 runs and drove in 28 RBIs for DHS.

Kehm hit four homers, 12 doubles and three triples to finish with 29 RBIs. She also scored 36 runs.

Piccoli had 25 base hits and scored 25 runs. Mordecai, who lives in Silverton and made the trip down to Durango every day for practice over her four years, hit four doubles, drove in 17 runs and scored 14 more.

Baguskas scored 20 runs and drove in 16.

Moore had four doubles, scoring nine times and bringing home seven runners.

Kremer, who is a junior, led the underclassmen with three home runs, seven doubles, 28 runs scored and 20 RBIs.

Barnes hit seven doubles, drove in 24 runs and scored 17 times. Kelly Arthur hit five doubles, had 19 RBIs and scored 18 runs.

On the mound, Kehm finished 7-4 with 57 strikeouts, and Flores finished 6-5 with 79 strikeouts.