For eight seniors and a hopeful fan base at Delta High School, the baseball season, regrettably, came to an end in Greeley this past weekend. Delta's three-game stand at Butch Butler Field in Greeley had a few highlights and too many lowlights keeping the Panthers from a state 3A baseball title shot in 2019.
The Panthers, 22-6, dominated play on the western slope to carry a 19-4 overall record into post-season play.
Delta won its regional playoff tournament against Cortez (9-4) and Kent Denver (10-0) and entered this year's 3A state baseball tournament with a 21-4 record.
After falling behind, 4-3 to Alamosa, in the seventh inning of its first round game in Greeley, Delta made a miraculous come-back in the bottom of the inning to win 5-4 and advance to the next round against the 3A top team, University. The Bulldogs had too much firepower for the Panthers and sent Delta to the losers' bracket with a 9-3 victory. Delta's next game was with the only team to defeat University in 2019, Eaton. The Reds also possessed a strong hitting squad and eliminated Delta with a 16-1 win.
Delta 5, Alamosa 4
The Panthers were playing a solid game against the Mean Moose with Delta's starting pitcher Nolan Bynum holding Alamosa scoreless through the first two innings.
A single from Alamosa's Kason Smith started the third inning, and eventually yielded the game's first run on Kolten Hillis' double that plated Smith. Delta got its bats working in the bottom of the inning after senior Eli Farmer reached base on a fielder's choice. Senior Rowyn Carmichael's single provided Delta an opportunity to drive his teammates home on a double. A sacrifice fly from junior Gauge Lockhart plated Myers and Delta led 3-1 going to the fourth.
Alamosa wasn't finished scoring runs, however. The Mean Moose put together a rally in the top of the fourth with two singles and a pair of Delta errors, to score two runs and tie the game, 3-3.
The next two innings were scoreless.
Alamosa's Kaden Hardesty reached base on an error and later scored on a sacrifice fly from designated hitter Ben Wuckert to give the Mean Moose a 4-3 lead with Delta coming to bat.
After Caden Stell's ground out to second base for the first out, Delta countered with a solid single to right field from Andrew Baier that got the Panther's pulse racing. Junior Nate Workman stepped up to the plate next and ripped a single to center field. A strikeout by Farmer had Delta's last-chance coming to bat in Carmichael, who hit a towering fly ball behind third base. Alamosa's shortstop, third baseman and left fielder converged on the spot where the ball would fall. But, with a high sky and a difficult sun, combined with windy conditions, none could make the play and the ball hit the ground allowing both Baier and Workman to score and give the win to Delta. Workman's speed at second, and his decision to run hard, keyed Delta's win.
Earlier in the game (fifth inning) Farmer made the play of the game to save a run, and possibly an extended inning for Alamosa. From his right field position, Farmer chased down a long fly ball to the centerfield gap and made a backhanded catch below his knees that prevented a runner on first from advancing to a scoring position.
The win over Alamosa was the second in three games the two teams played this season.
Keys in the win for Delta came on Myers' double and two RBIs in the third inning and Carmichael's two RBIs in the bottom of the seventh.
Alamosa's Kolten Hillis had a double and an RBI in three at bats with Ben Wuckert scoring a run and collecting an RBI with his one-hit day.
University 9, Delta 3
Last year's 3A state champions squeezed past Colorado Academy, 4-3, in last week's opening round game played on Butch Butler Field in Greeley. With the win, the Bulldogs moved on to play Delta's Panthers Friday afternoon.
The Bulldogs picked up two runs on three hits in the first inning to take a 2-0 lead heading to the second frame.
Delta tied the game in the top of the second on a two-RBI double to left center field by Workman. A hit from Baier and a walk by Miramontes set the stage for a Workman two-RBI hit. The bottom of the second produced two more runs by University with two more runs on three hits to give the Bulldogs a 4-2 lead.
After the two-run second inning the Bulldogs added four more runs in the bottom of the third to take a commanding 8-2 lead the Panthers couldn't recover from. With a run in the fourth, University owned a 9-2 advantage.
The Panthers scored their final run in the top of the fifth after Carmichael had walked and scored on a passed ball.
University's River Jackson went two-for-four at the plate, scored two runs, hit a double and triple to finish with three RBIs. The Bulldogs' Koy Jorgemon won his 10th game against no losses.
Eaton 16, Delta 1
Delta's final baseball game of the 2019 season was, unfortunately, not indicative of the caliber of play the team was capable of.
The Panthers did hold an early lead after the top half of the first inning with Carmichael reaching base on an error and eventually scoring on a passed ball. After that, it was all Reds. Eaton scored three runs in each of the first three innings and finished the game with seven runs in the bottom of the fifth for a 16-1 win.
Delta used four pitchers in the game with the hard-hitting Reds finding the right pitches against Farmer, Baier and eventually Workman and Ryan Cooper. Workman's stint on the hill resulted in the only inning Eaton hitters were retired in order in the fourth with a 9-1 lead.
Workman started the fifth inning but was relieved by Cooper.
Delta coach Steve Reiher was disappointed with the weekend's losses. "Honestly, I thought our mindset was positive coming into state. We wanted to be more than just satisfied with being here." With the season concluded thoughts turn to building toward the next chapter in Delta baseball. The Panthers have reached the same position they finished in this past weekend before. There's work to be done in the off-season. "We (coaches) talked to our underclassmen about working on things that will get us to where we want to be."
Eaton's Ryan Ure had a three-for-four day with one run scoring a double and five RBIs.
Eaton enters next week's final four round with a 22-4 record and University (26-1), which is in the title game after a 9-7 win over Lutheran Saturday afternoon, will await its opponent with Eaton, Lutheran and Resurrection Christian vying for the final championship berth on May 31 at Butch Butler Field in Greeley. The finals are set for June 1 at Butch Butler Field.