A lot was on the line when Delta's Panthers took the field last Saturday for 4A District 8 baseball playoff action. The Panthers were last in a state playoff in 1984 when Delta head coach Steve Reiher played shortstop for the Panthers. Reiher acknowledged the fact it was a neat feeling to be on the ends of such a feat as a player and a coach for the same team.
Coach Reiher helped his team prepare, maybe for himself more than the team's motivation, by playing 80s rock all morning prior to game time.
Motivation for the Panthers was high and they began the day with a win over number 27 Durango by a score of 11-5. The Demons finished third in the SWL 5A/4A league with a 5-5 record and 9-10 record prior to game time on Saturday.
Delta had to wait for the winner of Wheat Ridge and Pueblo South's game to determine its foe in the District 8 title game. The Colts scored the winning run (home run) in the bottom of the tenth after a long game in the sun and the season's highest temperatures took their toll on both teams. Delta took advantage of that long game to score a 7-3 win and a right to advance in 4A state baseball playoffs in the Denver Metro area this weekend.
Delta 11, Durango 5
Damon Jensen ripped a double in the bottom of the first inning and took a 1-0 lead after he scored on a passed ball.
A two-run second inning gave Durango the lead as teams entered the third inning of play.
The Demons plated two more runs in the third off hits by Lawrence Mayberry and Zach Szura that led to a pair of runs. Delta, trailing 4-1, gained the lead with four hits, including Jaspar Carmichael's three-run bomb with two outs in the bottom half of the inning. Jensen was hit by a pitch to start the inning for Delta and Blake Reiher followed with a hit. Ethan Keller drove in Jensen with his single and Carmichael's blast scored Reiher and Keller ahead of himself with the long ball.
Both teams scored singletons in the fourth for a 6-5 Delta lead.
Delta starting pitcher Drake Horn struck out the side in the top of the fifth to keep the Panthers' 6-5 lead. In the bottom of the inning, designated hitter Josh Reeder got on with a single and later scored on a Jensen single to make the score 7-5 going to the sixth.
Horn started the sixth inning and was relieved by Blake Reiher for the last out of the inning. The two pitchers combined to hold Durango scoreless and keep Delta ahead 7-5.
The bottom half of the sixth proved to be big for the Panthers, though the runs scored were not needed to clinch a victory. Keller and Justin Violett hit back-to-back doubles. A new Demons' pitcher greeted Tristan Brown and gave up a single to the hard-hitting lefthanded batter. A fielder's choice off the bat of Carmichael scored Violett but forced Brown at second base. McCurdy's single put runners in scoring position and Reeder obliged with a two-RBI single and an 11-5 lead.
Delta third baseman Seth Mewhinney put the finishing touches on the win with a strong throw from deep behind the bag to record the game's final out.
Carmichael had three RBIs on a 2-4 day with the bat, a home run and scored two runs himself. Reeder was superb with a 3-4 day at the plate, scored twice and had two RBIs. Keller was 2-3, including a double, and scored two runs.
Jacob Bourdon led Durango with two hits and an RBI.
Horn was the winning pitcher for Delta and Reiher added an eight-pitch relief effort for the Panthers. Horn picked up his seventh win of the year.
Delta 7, Colts 3
Jaspar Carmichael started on the mound for Delta in game two and was the winning pitcher with seven innings worked, allowing five hits and three runs and striking out eight Pueblo South batters. The win marked Carmichael's sixth win of the season.
Neither team scored in the first two innings of the game.
Anxiety rose in the top of the third when Lucas Taber hit a one-out single and leadoff hitter Marcos Estrada was walked. Carmichael struck out the next batter for out number two, bringing Brandon Maes to the plate. Maes found a Carmichael offering he liked well enough to drive it over the left field fence to give the Colts a 3-0 lead.
A nervous Panther delegation watched as Pueblo South pitching set the Panthers down in order in the bottom half of the third.
Carmichael returned the nervous feeling to Colts' fans in the top of the fourth by striking out two of the three batters he faced on his way to a one-two-three inning to keep the score at 3-0.
The Panthers found some of the mojo they had not exhibited in the game and used it to score two runs generated by Blake Reiher's double and Keller's single.
Pueblo South was nursing its pitching staff with its top throwers at or near pitch-count limits. After Delta retired the Colts without a run in the top of the fifth, it was time for the Panthers to rattle the bats. Blake Reiher, again, provided a rally-starting run parade with a double which scored Jensen, who had reached on a fielder's choice, to tie the game at 3-3. Reiher scored on a wild pitch, giving the Panthers a 4-3 lead.
Later in the inning, Tristan Brown's home run plated Violett, and himself, giving Delta a 6-3 lead. Carmichael followed Brown and hit a single. A long double by Ty McCurdy scored Carmichael, making the final score 7-3.
Reiher turned in a solid game with three hits, including two doubles, scored twice and had an RBI. Brown was 2-2 with a home run and two RBIs. Keller had two hits in four at bats for the Panthers.
Knowing his Panthers had passed a major test against Durango in game one, coach Reiher reflected on the day. "I felt Durango was a dangerous team because of its season schedule against 5A schools."
Between games one and two Reiher worried about the Colts' ability to hit the long ball. "They (Colts) live by the long ball. There's plenty of power in their lineup." Reiher was thankful for the extended game against Wheat Ridge with the game going extra innings (10). "We knew they were tired and short on pitching against us." The Colts used five pitchers in the game.
The eight district winners across the state meet in either All-Star Park (Lakewood) or Frederick High School this weekend. Delta (18-3) will face Erie (14-7) at Frederick High School on May 20 with a time yet to be determined. Also in the bottom half of the bracket is Pueblo West (17-4) and Longmont (15-6), who play each other at Frederick High School as well. Tournament format is double elimination.
Mountain View (20-2) and Air Academy (16-5) play in the top half of the bracket while Valor Christian (18-3) and Windsor (18-3) square off in the second playoff contest. Those times are not available at this time.
The winners play again, later in the day on May 20.
One winners' bracket game and four losers' bracket games begin elimination play on May 21 at the same sites mentioned previously. May 27 will feature three games to decide the 2016 4A State Champion.