Things are looking up for Delta High School's Panthers. The prospect of competing in a league suited to the enrollment of the school is gratifying for Delta softball coach Steve Reiher. Even though Delta competed strongly in Class 4A in the past, "expectations are different in terms as we are playing in a new league (Class 3A). Still expect us to compete at a high level every time we are on the field."
Reiher, in his fifth season at the helm, will have the service of capable assistants which include Darrell Easter, Tiffany Schaaf (two years) and Jerry Sandoval (five years).
Delta's list of competitors will include teams from Cedaredge, Aspen, Basalt, Gunnison and Meeker. There are still some potent ball clubs which have played well against the Panthers in the past, such as Montrose, Durango and Cortez.
Over the past three seasons Delta has relied on outstanding play from a number of players. This year's list will include Lily Lockhart, a senior pitcher and first baseman who garnered all-conference honors last season and was honorable mention in all-state voting. Lockhart was the 4A WSL Player of the Year a year ago.
Megan Sandoval, another senior who is a natural behind the plate, was also an all-conference selection a year ago and returns to direct Delta's defense once again.
Senior Saydee Culver is back after picking up all conference accolades at second base for the Panthers a year ago.
A youngster, Jenna Sutliff, is a sophomore shortstop who was selected to last year's all conference team as well.
Delta won the 4A WSL with a perfect mark and went on to play deep into the state playoffs.
Reiher sees his team as one of the favorites in 3A WSL play and would like to play in another state playoff in 3A competition. Who will stand in the way is obvious. "Expect Cedaredge to be very tough. They have two very good pitchers in Rodriguez (Lacey) and Kendall (Brittany). The Bruins are well-coached."
Meeker and Gunnison are also mentioned as good teams who will bear good efforts when the Panthers play them.
Delta opened its season on Aug. 23 at home against Basalt. The Panthers are in Eaton this Saturday, Aug. 27, for tournament play. The Panthers play in Montrose on Tuesday, Aug. 30 with varsity action beginning at 5 p.m.