Already hanging on to the slimmest of postseason hopes when Tuesday's action at Wolverine Field commenced, the Durango Demons were still just 0.005 of a Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) point from being the 32nd-and last-Class 4A State Tournament-eligible squad two hours, 23 minutes later.
"We've got some guys who can do math!" joked head coach Eric Baker. "So we kind of know where we are - they can get on MaxPreps or CHSAANow, look, and kind of figure it out. Basically we told 'em that the playoffs start today-like a play-in game, you know? And it's win, or we're done."
"We didn't have to get 'em too keyed up; Bayfield-Durango, there's a little bit of a rivalry," he added. "I'm trying to tamp it down - not build it up bigger than it needs to be - so they're not trying to do too much!"
Durango was anable to plate any of seven batters who reached base during the first two innings against Bayfield senior righty Michael Gettman. BHS was looking to avenge an 8-7 loss at DHS a week earlier and managed a 2-0 lead, but the visitors broke loose in overwhelming fashion with a seven-run third en route to a season-saving 11-2 road win.
Twelve Demons batted during the game-breaking frame, with a two-RBI Finn Hyson single ultimately putting Durango ahead for good, 4 to 2. Eighth in Baker's order, he would later score, increasing the lead to 5-2 when Gettman (L; 3 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 2 HB) tagged 3-man Gavin Mestas (0-1, 2 BB, 2 HBP, R, RBI) with the bases loaded.
"We had some runners in scoring position earlier, but just didn't get the timely hit and that's the way baseball is, you know?" Baker said. "You have to keep getting after it, working to get the runners in scoring position, then work to get the hit."
Senior cleanup hitter Max Hyson then shot a difficult grounder to third, but junior Hayden Farmer-too far from the bag to simply force Gage Mestas for the final out-zipped his throw out of first baseman Rhett Hoover's reach. Nine-hole hitter Jordan Woolverton scored from third on the fielder's-choice, and Mestas (2-3, 2 HBP, R, RBI) from second via the error, putting DHS up 7-2 before Gettman froze Gus Kidd with a called third strike.
"We can't let teams have big innings on us, and we didn't have any big innings ourselves. That was the difference in the game," Bayfield head coach Jake Forsythe said. "That third inning, they got that big lead and we couldn't come back from it. Just mental - and a couple physical - errors and it snowballed on us."
Durango senior Kegan D'Aleo allowed only six Wolverines to reach base after junior Alec Demko (1-3, R) whacked a second-inning triple down the right-field line, then scored via a wild pitch to senior Kaleb Heck (2-3).
BHS junior Max McGhehey (2-4, R) had scored the game's first run in the bottom of the first when Max Hyson, playing catcher defensively, threw the ball into centerfield attempting to gun down junior Jake Brandon at second after Brandon (2-4) singled to left, and Woolverton's throw went to the plate in hopes of stopping McGhehey at third.
"They're a good ball team, but we felt like we let one get away last week at their home and we didn't represent very well here, we had something to play for too," said Forsythe, who also sent Brandon (2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 K, HB) and Farmer (2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 K, HB) both to the hill.
"We were a little flat, and I don't know if it was because we kind of already knew what our fate was."
Slipping to #30 in the Class 3A RPI, but still virtually assured of making the 32-team 3A State Tournament's opening round, BHS ended the regular season standing 10-9 overall after going a second-place 7-3 in the Intermountain League. Fourth in the 4A/5A Southwestern with a 3-5 mark, DHS (#29 in 4A) improved to 11-8.
"It was tough because we were trying to save pitchers; it didn't really count for us today, as much as it does for this Saturday," said Forsythe, his team's destination/opponent unknown as of early Wednesday morning. "And the bats were a little off today; we'd been in a groove and we cooled a bit. Got to work on that."
"We just need to play a little more confident, with a little more energy," he noted. "We get a ticket to 'The Dance,' and that's what we've wanted. And I think we're going to be a scary team regardless of where we're at and where we're going."