Five HRs lift Delta past Bulldogs
DELTA — The doldrums that plagued Delta’s hitters the previous two games, which were their only losses of the season, were gone with the wind Tuesday.
An intermittent wind, blowing to the outfield at the Delta High School ballpark, helped the Panthers hit five home runs as they avenged the first of those two losses with a 10-6 victory over Palisade in a Class 4A Western Slope League baseball game.
Delta hit a home run in each of the first five innings, and Tyler Sandoval hit two of them, a solo shot to left field in the first inning and a solo shot to lead off the fifth inning. The latter gave Delta an 8-3 lead.
Sandoval said he knew both were going out when he hit them. He hit the first one off a knuckle ball. The second one was a full-count fastball, and he said, “I was sitting on it, dead red. Adjust to anything else.”
Joining Sandoval with home runs were Ethan Keller, a diminutive left-handed freshman who hit his to right-center; Marcus Garcia, a state-place-winning heavyweight wrestler who lined a ball over the wall in straight-away center field, more than 375 feet; and Jacob Leary, who entered the game in the No. 9 spot in the fourth inning and lofted the second pitch he saw over the left-field fence, near the corner where the 320 sign resides.
Delta coach Marty Rover said a few of the home runs were wind-aided, but they still would have been doubles minus the wind.
“They were well-struck balls,” he said. “They were all bona fide hits.”
And after being limited to three runs and nine hits combined in a 6-2 loss to Palisade and a 5-2 loss to Durango, the return of the offense was as important as the win to the Panthers (12-2, 8-1 WSL).
“It gives the kids some confidence,” Rover said. “It didn’t matter who we played. We needed to get some things going.
“That’s as well as we’ve swung a bat against a kid like that,” he added, referring to Palisade starter Tass Crow, who shut down Delta in the teams’ first meeting.
The Panthers prevented Palisade from creating a virtual three-way tie between the Bulldogs (9-6, 7-3), Panthers and Eagle Valley (7-4-1, 5-2) at two losses apiece in the league.
Like his coach, Sandoval thought the timing of the offense’s return was the greater accomplishment.
“This was important, not just for the league, but for the team, to pull us back together,” Sandoval said. “I’ve never been on a better hitting team, but it feels like the last couple of games we’ve been passive. Tonight, we were aggressive.”
Delta also did the job on the mound and in the field, holding off the Bulldogs when they finally got their bats going.
Winning pitcher Isaiah Kathrein retired the first nine hitters he faced, but Palisade got to him in the fourth for three hits and three runs. Rover said it was a gutty effort by Kathrein, who didn’t have his best stuff but showed his heart.
Keaton Reiher pitched the final three innings. He retired the side in order in the fifth, then survived three hits in the sixth and three walks and a hit batsman in the seventh as Delta’s defense helped limit the damage to three runs. The Panthers turned a 6-4-3 double play with runners on first and second and no outs in the seventh.
Rover praised his pitchers for keeping Palisade’s hitters from capitalizing on the wind.
“Our pitchers had to deal with the same thing and did a good job of keeping the ball down and getting ground balls,” he said.