Vikings sink Panthers’ postseason run
DELTA — The wind giveth and the wind taketh away.
In a game where the wind created chaos on nearly every swing of the bat, Delta High School saw its dreams of a second consecutive trip to the state baseball tournament blown away.
Valley used a 22-hit attack and scored 18 runs in the final four innings to beat the Panthers 20-17 on Saturday in the Class 3A Region 8 Tournament.
“I told (the players) that I was proud of them for the way they battled,” said Delta coach Steve Reiher. “It really came down to one swing either way. We went down fighting. When you have eight seniors, it’s tough to play that last one. They put in the time and worked their tails off, they’re just a great group to be around, we’ll miss them.”
As Valley (15-6) celebrated its berth in the 3A state tournament, Delta players and coaches appeared stunned after the Panthers hit two grand slams and watched a 10-2 lead after three innings vanish.
It was a wild, windy game from the start. Justin Violett ripped a grand slam in the first inning, then came back in the second inning with a two-run double.
After Trevor Myers drilled a two-run home run, the lead was 10-2.
Throughout the game, fly balls tormented players on both teams.
“There were routine fly balls and there was nothing routine about them. More than anything else, I think (the wind) effected our pitchers,” Reiher said. “They were having a hard time keeping the ball down in the zone and we haven’t done that all year. But that’s a good hitting team.”
In the fourth and fifth innings, the Vikings had nine hits and scored nine runs to take an 11-10 lead.
But the Panthers (16-5) never blinked.
In the bottom of the fifth, Josh Reeder doubled and Blake Reiher singled to join Myers on the bases. That’s when Tristan Brown launched a shot deep and over the left-center field fence for a grand slam and a 14-11 lead.
Valley again erased the Panthers’ lead in the top of the sixth on a three-run home run by Dillon Rudd to put the Vikings up 15-14.
And again, the Panthers grabbed the lead right back at 18-16 with Reeder hitting a two-run shot in the bottom of the sixth.
Although both teams had hits taken away thanks to that wicked wind, both teams also ripped line drives and long home runs. Both teams used four pitchers.
It’s hard to imagine a player having a better day at the plate than Violett.
In the Panthers’ first game, a 15-1 5-inning win over Rye, the senior hit two three-run home runs.
Violett said the loss was as tough as he’s ever had.
“It’s really difficult, especially when you have a 10-1 lead at one point. You think about all the hard work you’ve put in during the season and it didn’t pay off,” he said. “It’s a tough break, it happens sometimes, that’s a good team.”
Even after Valley came back with another five-run inning to take the 20-17 lead in the top of the seventh, Delta put two runners on. But the Vikings ended the game, and Delta’s season, on a 6-4-3 double play.
Senior Damon Jensen said it was a strange game.
“When you come up short like this, you just have to tip your cap to them, they earned it. That’s baseball, it happens sometimes,” he said. “Our team is amazing, everyone of them, we went down fighting.”
Also in the Class 3A playoffs, Cedaredge lost to Sterling, 17-7 in Region 1.