Delta High School's run for a state 3A baseball title began last weekend with a pair of wins in Region 4 play. As the state 3A's No. 5 RPI ranked, the Panthers hosted No. 31 Cortez (10-10), No. 10 La Junta (16-7) and No. 21 Kent Denver (10-12). The Panthers came into the weekend with a 19-4 record.
Delta played Cortez in game one on Saturday morning and eventually pulled away in the late innings for a 9-4 decision and earn a berth in the title game. La Junta and Kent Denver played game two with the final title berth up for grabs. Kent Denver used a seven-hit attack to carve out an 8-1 decision to take the final berth.
In the title game, Delta started slow and built momentum to win the Region 4 title, 10-0, to earn a trip to the 3A State Baseball Championships beginning in Greeley on Friday, May 24.
Delta 9, Cortez 4
The Panthers were stunned in the first inning by a three-run rally featuring three hits a pair of Delta errors.
Cortez's Cordell Baer started the scoring process with a single to right field. Travis Beeson slapped a single to center field and Carson Yoder drew a walk. Ryan Medina reached base on an error allowing Baer to score and Korie Likes' single brought in Beeson's pinch runner, Quade Oliver and Yoder.
Delta countered with two runs of its own in the bottom of the first after a walk to Trevor Myers and a single by Gauge Lockhart with Kolby Keller's single scoring Lockhart.
The second inning offered Delta an opportunity to score two more runs. Workman started the inning with a walk with a wild pitch advancing him to second. A balk put Workman on third where Eli Farmer's sacrifice fly to right field scored Workman. Myers was walked after the second out was made and a Lockhart double moved him to third. A wild pitch gave Delta its fourth run, and a Panther 4-3 lead.
Cortez's biggest threat of the game came in the third inning with three consecutive singles loaded the bases. The threat was neutralized by a Lockhart double play. A deep fly to Workman, at shortstop, ended Cortez's half of the third inning with Delta holding a 4-3 lead.
Cayden Stell was walked in the bottom of the third and worked his way around the bases to score one more run for a 5-3 Panthers' lead.
Cortez added its final run in the fourth inning with the Panthers scoring one run in the fifth and three more in the sixth to pull off a 9-4 win.
Keller's two-RBI game led the way for Delta. Lockhart scored two runs for Delta with teammates Bynum, Farmer and Stell contributing an RBI each in the win.
Cortez's Ryan Medina had two hits and two RBIs for the visiting Panthers.
Ryan Cooper picked up his third win against one loss for the Panthers. Cooper worked three innings giving up seven hits and four runs. Andrew Baier came on to work the final four innings allowing one hit and striking out four batters.
Delta 10, Sun Devils 0
There was a lot of concern in Delta's dugout over the hitting display the Sun Devils had displayed against La Junta in game two. Much of the anxiety dissipated after a five-run fourth inning propelled the Panthers to a 7-0 lead.
Clayton Abila (5-0) was on the mound to start the Panthers on their run toward a state berth.
Single runs in the second and third innings had the Panthers holding a precarious 2-0 lead heading to the fourth inning.
Three back-to-back doubles from the Panthers (Bynum, Keller and Caleb Miramontes) produced four runs before Kent Denver could get an out. The fifth run came on a Myers sac-fly to left field which scored Farmer.
The Panthers ended the game with a three-run rally in the fifth inning. Keller led off with a single. A sac-bunt from Miramontes moved Keller to third and Wilson was called out on strikes for the second out of the inning.
With an opportunity to end the game in their minds, Delta batters revved up their game to make it happen. Workman barreled a wicked laser to left field for a triple to score Keller and Farmer followed with a double to get Workman home for a 9-0 lead. Carmichael shot a single to right field to score Farmer to end the game, 10-0.
Asked about his thinking on his last at bat, Farmer was quick to reply, "I trust my teammates. I feel like if I can get on base, the people behind me will get base knocks to get me in."
Farmer stumbled rounding third and, with a grin, Carmichael had this to say about the play. "I just hoped he didn't get thrown out on the play."
Farmer noted the team has been progressing all season and there is optimism among players. "We've been stringing base hits together ... line drives and ground balls."
Late-season practices have been geared toward a desire to attain that all-consuming goal of getting the chance to win a state title.
After the winning weekend, head coach Steve Reiher was asked his thoughts on his feelings. "This feeling doesn't get old. These kids have been busting their butts all year and at this point it's a great feeling to be where we are." When everything is as it should be, good things happen says Reiher. "When we're all swinging the bats at the same time it's pretty to watch."
Farmer's three-hit day included two doubles and three runs scored. Workman had two hits, including his triple, and knocked in two runs. Carmichael and Miramontes also had two-hit days with a pair of RBIs each. Keller was three-for-three with three runs scored in the 16-hit Delta attack.
Abila picked up his sixth win against no losses for Delta. He went five innings giving up just four hits and struck out four along the way.
With all that has been in Abila's life in recent years, it's nothing short of a miracle what he has accomplished in all phases of his young life. Coach Reiher commented on his feelings on Abila's resiliency. "I wanted to say how impressive Clayton was on the mound (against Kent Denver). Absolutely dominating performance. Very proud of him!"
Delta is scheduled to face Alamosa (15-8) at 12 noon Friday, May 24, in Greeley at Butch Butler Field in round one play. A win moves the Panthers to a second game on Friday against either University (23-1) or 19-3 Colorado Academy at 2:30 p.m. A loss in first round means a 9:30 a.m. game Saturday morning at University High School.