In looking back as far the 2007-08 season, Delta's Panthers have been involved in post-season baseball play but have not gotten out of district competition. This year's squad is looking to compete in another district playoff scenario with hopes of moving deeper into the playoffs.
Coach Steve Reiher has his Panthers in control of this year's 4A WSL standings with a league mark of 11-0 and 13-3 overall. This past week's games included wins over Palisade (4-3) and a doubleheader sweep over Rifle 20-5 and 13-4.
Rifle and Delta were tied for the league lead with unbeaten records prior to beginning the week. A week before that, Palisade also owned an unblemished league record. The Panthers knocked off Palisade 14-10 on April 20, in Delta, and completed the season sweep over the Bulldogs with a 4-3 decision at Suplizio Field last week.
The wins over Rifle put Delta in command of the 4A WSL.
Palisade, 10-2 and 11-6, is in second place followed by Rifle, 9-2 and 13-3.
The Panthers took a nine-game winning streak into their game against Glenwood Springs (3-6 and 5-9) on Tuesday.
Delta 4, Palisade 3
Delta opened play last week with a visit to Suplizio Field in Grand Junction where the Panthers faced Palisade in the final game of the regular season between the two schools.
The Panthers trailed Palisade, 9-8, after four innings of play in Delta on April 15. Three runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings lifted the Panthers to a 14-10 win.
Last week's game was scoreless until the Bulldogs pushed a run across the plate in the bottom of the third inning.
Following a scoreless fourth, the Bulldogs plated two more runs to take a 3-0 lead going to the sixth inning.
Delta began its half of the sixth with Seth Mewhinney receiving a walk. Damon Jensen followed with an RBI triple and Blake Reiher's RBI single made for a quick two runs. Ethan Keller's sacrifice bunt moved Reiher over to third and Jaspar Carmichael's grounder plated Keller for Delta's third run of the inning.
Ty McCurdy knocked in Carmichael with a single to provide the Panthers with a 4-3 lead. Palisade failed to score in the next two innings as Carmichael allowed just one runner to reach base out of the seven hitters he faced in the sixth and seventh innings combined.
Carmichael, who was a picture of poise and confidence, picked up the win for Delta after working seven innings. He gave up four hits, three runs, walked one batter and struck out eight Palisade batters. It was his third win of the season.
When asked about his poise and calm demeanor, Carmichael responded with, "It's my mindset. I try to stay calm every time out."
Carmichael gave praise to his defense by saying, "They're amazing. They made some incredible plays."
Delta coach Steve Reiher also commented on Carmichael's play against Palisade. "Gutsy......he was gutsy! He's wise beyond his years and he had a good defense behind him today."
McCurdy and Keller had two hits each for Delta, with Reiher, Jensen and McCurdy recording an RBI each.
Palisade's Freddie Horn had two hits and Austin Bernal drove in two of the Bulldogs' three runs.
Doubleheader at Rifle
Delta 20, Rifle 5
This much-anticipated confrontation between the Panthers and Bears turned out to be more one-sided than originally thought. Rifle didn't have the strength offensively to stay with the Panthers. Delta out-hit the Bears 30-10 for the two games played.
A 10-run first inning took the wind out of Rifle's sails as the Panthers cruised to a 20-5 WSL victory.
Tristan Brown sparked the Panthers in game one with a pair of home runs and a double for five RBIs. His first dinger came in the top of the second inning with nobody on base. The second four-bagger was a two-run shot in the fourth.
Other game-day heroes included Ethan Keller who was 4-5 in each game with six runs batted in for the day. He scored seven times in the two games combined.
Keller scored four times in game one with a pair of doubles to go with
a home run and three RBIs. Blake Reiher had three hits, scored two times and knocked in four runs for the Panthers in game one.
Damon Jensen had two hits, scored twice, had a double and drove in one run.
Drake Horn was on the hill for Delta and earned the win, his fifth of the season.
Delta 13, Rifle 4
Keller's second straight four-hit game included another two-doubles game, three runs scored and three RBIs.
Delta didn't have the big early innings it had in the first game. Instead, a little at a time seemed to work well. The Panthers opened with two runs in the first and added another two scores in the second frame.
Rifle scored its first two runs in the second inning. A third run came in the third with Delta leading 4-2 as the game entered the fourth inning.
The Panthers rallied for five runs in the top of the fourth to take a 9-3 lead. Another three runs in the fifth made the score 12-3 with Rifle coming to bat.
The Bears scored their final run in the bottom of the fifth and Delta completed its scoring with a single run in the seventh for a final score of 13-4.
Keller worked five innings for Delta and gave up four hits and one earned run while striking out five batters to record his third win of the season.
Justin Violett hit a league-leading fifth home run for Delta and Brown had three RBIs. Reiher, Seth Mewhinney, Jensen and Ty McCurdy all had two hits in the game for Delta.
With the season winding down and a league crown on the line, Coach Reiher wanted to take every precaution before playing the Bears, especially in Rifle. "We prepared and talked Thursday and Friday for Rifle. We knew they liked to play small ball so we worked a bunch on small ball. Our mindset though was to go out and score a bunch of runs and take them out of their game plan."
The Panthers provided Reiher with a pleasant surprise with their 10-run first inning. "I had no idea we'd come out and put a 10-spot on the board in the first inning. I thought we had quality at bats and we kept the pressure on the entire time. Some of our big bats broke loose. I was really happy for (Tristan) Brown (two home runs and eight RBIs) to swing it the way he did. Keller and (Blake) Reiher also had a great day (with six RBIs)."
In summing up the week, Reiher complimented his players. "This was a really good week for our program. Three tough games in a four-day stretch and I really felt like our kids played hard and for each other."
Delta will conclude its regular season schedule with doubleheader action against Eagle Valley on Saturday, May 7, beginning at 11 a.m.
During a preliminary hearing in Delta District Court on Tuesday, Jan. 15, Judge Steven Schultz found probable cause for second degree murder charges against Heather Jones.
Jones previously faced three counts in the shooting of Ryan Redifer in Paonia on Jan. 12, 2018 -- assault in the first degree, assault in the second degree and violation of a protection order.