The Delta High School baseball team is 2-2 on the new season with some impressive teams it has done battle with.
The Panthers began their 2017 campaign against Roaring Fork with an 8-1 win on March 10.
Grand Junction, a 5A team that is a top 25 team, was Delta's next opponent. The Panthers led 5-3 going to the sixth inning, where Grand Junction rallied for two runs to tie the game. A single run in the seventh enabled the Tigers to salvage the win.
Delta was at home against 5A Loveland (Front Range League) on Friday and earned a convincing 10-3 victory. A Saturday contest with Valor Christian, the state's No. 1 ranked 4A team, was close for four innings before a two-run sixth and another two-run inning in the seventh provided a 9-4 win for the defending 4A state champions.
Delta 8, RF 1
Delta's opening season baseball game was played in Carbondale where the Panthers led from start to finish.
The 3A WSL conference contest began with the Panthers scoring two runs in the first inning. Single runs in each of the fourth and fifth innings boosted Delta's lead to 4-0 before the Panthers finished with two runs in each of the sixth and seventh innings.
Roaring Fork's lone run came in the bottom of the seventh.
Darien Rodriguez paced Delta's hitting attack with three hits in four at bats, including a double.
Damon Jensen also had multiple hits for the Panthers with two safeties in five at bats.
Five Delta pitchers limited the Rams to just two hits in the game.
Ethan Keller was the winning pitcher. Also seeing action for the Panthers were Blake Reiher, Drake Horn, Jaspar Carmichael and Justin Violett.
GJ 6, Delta 5
Delta trailed 2-0 heading into the fifth inning and came out leading 5-3.
Grand Junction tied the game with two runs in the bottom of the sixth and scored once in the bottom of the seventh to win the nonconference contest, 6-5.
Drake Horn started on the mound for Delta with Keller coming into the contest in the fifth. Dylan Hollenbeck finished the seventh inning. Keller was charged with the loss.
Jaspar Carmichael had three hits and an RBI for Delta in the loss while Jensen had two hits for two RBIs and Tristan Brown went one for three for two RBIs. Shawn Garcia and Derek Shaver had hits for two RBIs each for the Tigers. Delta outhit Grand Junction 12-6.
Delta 10, Loveland 3
The Panthers made it clear they were out to win with a 4-run first inning.
Jensen's first at bat set the tone for what was to come from Delta's offense. On the second pitch of the inning, Jensen powered the ball over the left field fence for a solo home run. "Didn't know I had that much power on that pitch. I thought I had hit it too high ... I must have had enough backspin on the ball to carry it on out," quoted Jensen.
Jensen's thoughts on the loss to Grand Junction were on team confidence, "I'm always confident my team can win. That loss to Junction was just the game of baseball. We've got a good group of kids and we go deep ... even to the younger level. We've got kids who can jump up and hit the spot."
Later in the opening inning, Keller stroked a double and Justin Violett walked. Keller eventually scored on a passed ball and Tristan Brown clubbed a double to score Violett. Josh Reeder followed with another double to drive in Brown giving the Panthers a 4-0 lead they would never lose.
Reiher set down the Indians in order in the second inning and Delta's offense went to work once again.
A double from Reiher to start the second inning set the wheels in motion. Reiher took third on a wild pitch and Keller grounded out to the second baseman to score Reiher.
Violett hit a single giving the Panthers runners on base and Brown walked. Both Violett and Brown moved up a base on a passed ball before Carmichael laced a single to center field, scoring Violett and Brown. Carmichael was thrown out at third to end the inning while attempting to pick up an extra base on Rodriguez's single. Delta took a 7-0 to the fourth inning.
Loveland plated a single run in each of the fourth through sixth frames while the Panthers scored once in the fourth and twice in the fifth to make the final score 10-3.
The two runs in the fifth came on Reiher's home run with a ball and two strikes.
Reiher was also the winning pitcher after going the distance on 73 pitches and allowing just five hits. His thoughts on the game included his pitch to Jackson Backovich in the top of the sixth inning. "I threw him a curve and he hit it out. I forgot I'd thrown a curve he hit for a triple earlier."
The home run Reiher hit was another thing. "It felt amazing. It was the first of the season and the first of my actual varsity career."
Coach Reiher's take on the win included Delta's defensive play. "We played outstanding defense against them (Loveland) and Blake competed well for seven innings. Our at bats differed from the Grand Junction game as we went at them." Delta outhit the Indians 13-5. "Win or lose ... it's about effort and we had that," said coach Reiher.
Carmichael led Delta hitters with three RBIs on two hits. Reiher's two hits also produced two RBIs. Other two-hit performers for Delta included Josh Reeder and Violett. Hitting doubles for Delta were Reiher, Reeder, Keller and Brown.
Bakovich and Zach Harstad had two hits each in Loveland's five-hit game.
VC 9, Delta 4
Once again, the Panthers started strong and owned a lead after the first inning of play.
Valor Christian's leadoff hitter Joel Pierce reached on an error to lead things off in the first inning. Two batters later, Luke Ziegler's ground out to Reiher at shortstop plated Pierce.
In Delta's half of the first inning, Jensen reached on a single and later scored on Brown's two-RBI single which also plated Reiher who had walked.
Valor Christian tied the game in the second frame after Rafe Kinder was issued a walk to start the inning with Pierce's single sending Kinder home with the tying run.
The Panthers broke the tie in the third with Jensen coming home on a Violett double. Brown's single scored Violett giving Delta a 4-2 lead at the end of three innings of action.
Valor Christian scored three runs in the top of the fourth on three hits and a pair of walks. One of the hits for the Eagles was a two-run home run off the bat of Ryan Barber.
Delta left two runners on base in the fifth inning but failed to score. Valor Christian scored two runs in the sixth off the bat of Ziegler (home run) and finished with two more scores in the seventh to make the final score 9-4.
Violett finished a strong weekend of offensive play with three RBIs on three hits against the Eagles. Brown had the other RBI for the Panthers and Jensen finished the day with three hits.
Jonathan Boulaphinh had three hits for the Eagles while Ziegler finished with two hits and four RBIs and Barber's day included two RBIs.
Valor Christian's Zach Reid was the winning pitcher and Carmichael was the loser.
Delta's week began with a test at Paonia (March 21) and includes games against Erie (No. 8 in 4A) on March 25 in Rifle and Monday (March 27) in Montrose at 10 a.m.