Last week's baseball schedule had Delta's Panthers taking on inner league rival Cedaredge on April 16 and then hosting another 3A WSL foe, Moffat County, April 20. Both contests were won by Delta raising the Panthers' overall record to 12-2 and 3-0 in league play leaving Delta in first place in 3A WSL.
Delta had a big start in Cedaredge but had to hang on to score an 11-9 decision over the scrappy Bruins (6-11 and 2-1). Saturday's win, 3-0, against visiting Moffat County (2-7 and 2-3) was a pitcher's duel down to the wire with Delta's Ryan Cooper picking up the win on a 3-hit shutout. Moffat County's Drake Doherty was efficient as well by limiting the Panthers to just three hits, including a two-run home run blast from senior Eli Farmer in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Delta has won its last nine games and has vaulted to second place in the recent Class 3A standings. The Panthers are also a top five member of the RPI poll with their No. 4 ranking.
In Cedaredge the Panthers had hot bats and roared to a quick 5-0 lead on four consecutive doubles from Kolby Keller, Nolan Bynum, Rowyn Carmichael and Trevor Myers. Gauge Lockhart's single drove in Myers and Lockhart scored on a passed ball to provide the 5-0 early lead.
Cedaredge started its half of the first inning with a walk to Kaden Schulz and Sean Dale reaching on an error to set the table for Jacob Brown's two-RBI single before Delta starter, Bynum, finished the inning with his third strike out of the frame.
The hot bats Delta started the game with came up missing for the next three innings.
A 6-run fifth opened up an 11-2 lead that looked safe in light of defensive struggle for three innings. A towering fly ball from Myers ignited Delta's big inning, scoring Carmichael who had reached base on an error, giving the Panthers a 7-2 lead. A Bynum double greeted Bruins' reliever Simon Varela to plate Keller finishing off the six-run rally by the Panthers.
Cedaredge countered with three runs of its own to trail 11-5 heading to the sixth. Bynum, Delta's starter, was replaced by Lockhart after a three-walk inning and two singles from Dale and Isaac Blair.
Another 'no-show' period for Delta's bats lasted through the seventh inning and opened the door for the Bruins in the bottom of the seventh.
Delta's usual reliable reliever, Gauge Lockhart, was holding his own before a four-run rally by the Bruins had to be quelled by Eli Farmer's strike out of a Bruins' batter to end the game.
Saturday's game against Moffat County wasn't supposed to have been too tough. However, the Bulldogs caught Delta in a more relaxed mode than coach Steve Reiher would have liked. "We didn't play well in this one," noted Reiher.
With the playoffs looming in the future, "We need to stay focused and not allow teams to gain false hopes in close games," said Reiher.
Delta got superb pitching from senior Ryan Cooper against the Bulldogs. Cooper worked all seven innings of the game and allowed just three hits, two singles and a double.
The Panthers scored their first run of the game in the third inning. Keller reached on an infield hit to begin the bottom of the inning and scored later in the inning on a walk to Lockhart.
Both pitchers keyed their team's defense with strong performances. Cooper faced minimum batters in five of the seven innings played. Doherty had just two innings where he faced the minimum number of batters for the Bulldogs and finished with nine strike outs.
Cooper finished his day with 10 strike outs. When asked if he'd had any day better than his work against Moffat County, "I've never had a complete game. This is the best I've ever felt in a game!"
Farmer was Delta's top batter with his 1-2 day (with the home run) and two RBIs. Carmichael and Andrew Baier had singles to account for Delta's three hits.
Delta heads toward the playoffs with three of the next four games against league foes. The Panthers played Basalt (2-7 and 1-1) on Tuesday and play in Palisade April 25 and at Aspen (0-11 and 0-3) April 27 (Saturday) at 11 a.m.
Gunnison (6-5 and 1-1) will host the Panthers on Tuesday, April 30 at 3 p.m.