The Duncan Demons will open play in the state tournament at 4 p.m. Thursday against the McAlester Buffaloes At Tulsa Union High School.

The tournament start was delayed one day due to the weather.

The Demons have beaten McAlester once this season by an 8-2 margin. However, the Buffaloes have eliminated DHS from the state tournament the past two seasons. The Demons played all but two of the teams that fill out the field at state.

“We’ve seen two of the three on our side and, on the other side, we played three of the four,” Duncan head coach Tim Hightower said. “Again, that goes back to scheduling and seeing people. They learn about us and we learn about them. It gets you prepared a little bit more mentally.

“I like our matchup in the first round, because of what has happened the last two years. I think it will motivate out kids. They (the Buffaloes) are a good team, and anything can happen. We just have to go out and play hard. Hopefully, things will take care of themselves.”

This will be DHS’ third straight appearance in the high school season’s last tournament, and that experience should help the Demons.

“I think it is a big advantage,” Hightower said. “We are probably one of the most experienced teams in the tournament. We’ve learned a lot throughout the season and playoffs in the past.

“I think these seniors have grown and matured. Even the underclassmen were involved and got to see what happens last year and got to experience a playoff atmosphere.”

The Demons have 30 wins and just six losses. The losses have come to Midwest City, Edmond Memorial, Carl Albert, twice, Altus and Leedey. All of those teams, except for Midwest City and Altus, made the state tournament in their respective classes. Altus and Midwest City were ranked in the top echelon of their classes throughout the season. Only eight of the teams that Duncan played this season were unranked.

Having seen all of those teams has Hightower feeling good about his squad.

“Our strength of schedule is a big reason that we are playing at the level we are now,” he said. “We’ve played a lot of playoff-like games through the season. I think that has helped us get ready for the state tournament.”

Pitching will be something that the Demons can rely on as long as they last at state. Seniors Kale Murphree and Caleb Martin and sophomore Tyler King have led the pitching staff this season. Martin and King lead the staff with seven wins each, while Murphree has six wins to one loss. King has the lowest ERA at .68, while Murphree is close behind with a .89 ERA. Martin has the most strikeouts with 49 and innings pitched at 52 1/3.

“Expectations coming into this year were that we were expected to be strong on the mound. With Caleb and Kale and Dusty (Spencer) and Ryan (Bailey), we’ve got some quality seniors that have helped us,” Hightower said. “We’ve got some underclassmen that have helped us. Vince (Linke) has done well and Tyler has thrown exceptionally well.”

If the pitching fails, the offense and defense of the Demons are capable of picking up the slack.

Murphree leads the way in average at .424 and RBIs with 42. Trevor Suffal is hitting at a .401 clip with 40 runs scored and 35 RBIs.

Sheylon Roberson, King and Jared Smith are all hitting .380 or better. Trent Wilkins has scored 43 runs this season to lead that category.

The Demons are scoring runs at an average rate of 8.5 per game, and limiting opponents to 3.2 per game.

“As a coach I’m not concerned, because I know we are going to have an inning where we score runs. If we fall behind, our kids don’t panic because they feel like we are going to get that big inning, too.”

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