Playing in tough environment not a big issue for Delta
The Delta High School baseball team will have to contend with a hostile environment today at the Class 4A state championship tournament.
The Panthers (18-3) play their first game of the two-weekend tournament against Erie (14-7) at 10 a.m. at Frederick High School, only eight miles from the Tigers’ home field.
The tournament isn’t seeded. Instead, the Colorado High School Activities Association slots district winners into specific spots on the bracket.
But Delta coach Steve Reiher said he isn’t worried about that aspect of the matchup. The Panthers are used to playing in hostile environments.
“They know we’ve gotta control what we can control and play like we’ve been playing,” Reiher said of his team. “We’re pretty focused on just going over there and trying to win a couple ballgames and not worry about it being a home game. We know anytime it’s a district setup, this can happen. They’re probably going to have a pretty large crowd, but I think we will too.”
Erie was initially seeded No. 14 in the 32-team field, but beat No. 30 Niwot 5-1 in the District 7 championship after the Cougars upset No. 3 Denver North in the first round.
The Tigers feature a pair of pitchers, Ruben Portillo and Victor Villa, who combined to allow only three runs in two district tournament games. In 14 innings, only one of those runs was earned.
Portillo, a 5-foot-9 junior, is a right-hander with a fastball that can reach more than 80 mph. Villa is a 6-1 senior who can force weak contact with a wide arsenal of pitches.
Reiher said the Panthers are patient at the plate.
“That’s the one thing, as a crew, all year long, one through nine, that we’ve been very good at,” Reiher said. “We’re good at staying patient and waiting pitchers out a little if we have to and getting good pitches to hit. We might have a little excitement and might have to pull ourselves back a little to remain patient, but we’ve been good at it this year.”
The Tigers haven’t uploaded statistics to Maxpreps.com, but they do feature college-bound athletes in other sports. Senior Luke Conilogue, a 6-4, power-hitting outfielder has signed with the CSU-Pueblo football team to play linebacker.
Reiher said the Tigers have some pop in their lineup, but the Panthers are aware of Erie’s grind-it-out style of play.
“Talking to some people in the Denver area, we know they’ll play a little small-ball,” Reiher said. “They’ll bunt guys over, squeeze if they need to. We’ve definitely prepared for every aspect of small-ball, stolen bases and hit-and-run and all of that. We also know that we have to pitch to contact and we have to make them earn it if they’re going to get on base.”