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Delta softball team sets sights on playoff return

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Photo by Wayne Crick Delta's leading home run hitter from last season, Lily Lockhart, squares up a pitch from a Douglas County pitcher last Saturday morning at Canyon View Park in Grand Junction. Teams from across the state gathered to play in as many as

What the Panthers and coach Steve Reiher want is to duplicate their successful season in 2014 where they finished the year with an 18-5 record. Three of those losses came early to Grand Junction, Fruita and Cortez. The next time Delta lost was in post-season action. Niwot knocked the Panthers into losers' bracket play where they defeated Englewood for another shot at Niwot for the right to advance to the next round. Niwot won the game, ending Delta's season.

Reiher is excited to begin the 2015 season and has high hopes of returning to post-season play where his team will move deeper into the playoffs.

Providing assistance in helping Reiher and the Panthers reach their goal, are Jerry Sandoval, Darrell Easter, April Easter, Katie Bellew and Tiffany Schaaf.

The Panthers will be in the thick of things in this year's race to post-season. Several players were selected as impact players for the coming season. More may emerge as the season unfolds.

Players who are potential impact players include seniors Keilee Womack, Rachel Huerkamp and Hannah Easter. Womack and Easter are pitchers, while Huerkamp plays in the outfield. Womack and Easter have been in the program four years, with Huerkamp participating three seasons.

Juniors Megan Sandoval, Lily Lockhart and Saydee Culver add strength and leadership to the team as all have been in the program going on their third year.

Sandoval is the catcher who leads the team from behind the plate. Lockhart pitches and plays first base, with some thunder in her bat. Culver is a capable infielder and outfielder.

When the question of teams to beat is brought up, Reiher listed some familiar names to a growing list. Palisade is most always the first name listed by Reiher. "They are always tough," says Reiher. "They seem to be our natural rival."

Montrose has played Delta tough over the years, and Durango can be salty as well.

Last year, Cortez stole a victory from the Panthers. "They help us see where we stand," noted Reiher.

All said and done, the Panthers are going to be solid in 2015. "We should be fairly competitive. Bringing back a lot of girls off last year's team, essentially seven starters, will help us. We also know we have a target around our necks so we are going to have to play well game in and game out."

Delta is in Grand Junction, Canyon View Complex, for scrimmage action this Saturday.

The Panthers open regular season play on Sept. 1 at home against Rifle with a 4 p.m. start time for varsity action. Junior varsity action follows. On Thursday, Delta hosts Montrose for another 4 p.m. starting time.

A trip to Henderson is set for Sept. 4 and 5, where the Panthers will participate in tournament play at the Prairie View Invitational.

A Sept. 8 contest at Palisade is scheduled for a 4 p.m. start.

Photo by Wayne Crick Delta shortstop Saydee Culver looks toward the field umpire after making the tag in hopes he gives the out signal. The runner was safe at second in a scrimmage game played between Douglas County and the Panthers at Canyon View Park.
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