Granby " Faith Christian ends Middle Park baseball team’s winning streak | SkyHiNews.com

Granby " Faith Christian ends Middle Park baseball team’s winning streak

Will Bublitz
Sky-Hi Daily News

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Last week was both good and bad for Middle Park High’s baseball team as it picked up another win, but also suffered its first losses of the 2008 season.

The Panthers earned their fifth consecutive victory with a 7-2 beating of Peak to Peak in Lafayette on Tuesday, March 18, but Middle Park’s early-season winning streak came abruptly to an end with back-to-back losses to Faith Christian in Arvada on Saturday, March 22. The Eagles, who are the No. 1 ranked team in the state, defeated the Panthers 7-3 and 11-0.

“We didn’t play well against Peak to Peak, but we still found a way to win,” said coach James Newberry. “In the doubleheader against Faith Christian, we knew it was going to be tough taking on the top team in the state on their home field. There were positives in those two games because we know that we are a better team than how we played Saturday.”

In Tuesday’s 7-2 victory over Peak to Peak, Middle Park’s ballplayers dominated the game from the start. The Panther’s leadoff batter, senior Ian Sutton, singled and then stole second base. He did not remain there long because Brian Moore came up next and belted the ball deep into center field for a triple that drove Sutton into score the first run. Moore went on to score the second run after Mike Zieff batted a single.

The Panthers racked up another run in the second inning. Alex Morrow hit a single, stole second base and then advanced to third base on a sacrifice fly hit by Justen Strang. Chad Sprague then helped him reach home plate by batting a double into the outfield.

“We then went into a scoring drought because we made the mistake of trying to swing for the fence,” Newberry said. “We had lost focus in our batting and didn’t settle back down until the sixth inning.”

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In that inning, Moore got things rolling again with a single. Inspired by that, Mike Stefanski stepped to the plate and blasted the ball over the outfield fence for a two-run homer. Middle Park’s two final runs came in the seventh inning. With Sutton and Zieff at first and third bases, P.J. Cross slammed a double into the outfield to pick up the two RBIs.

“Peak to Peak made only two runs in the game and both of them were unearned,” Newberry said. “They made them on our errors which were so ugly that we don’t even want to talk about them.”

Cross pitched his first game of the new season Tuesday. Going all seven innings, he gave up only those two unearned runs as well as four hits. He allowed no walks and earned six strikeouts.

Traveling to Arvada on Saturday, it was the Panthers’ own errors that probably cost them the 7-3 loss in the first game of the doubleheader.

Faith Christian’s Eagles showed why they are the state’s top team by putting three runs up on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first inning, but Middle Park matched them with three of their own at the top of the second inning. Morrow earned an RBI by driving in Moore for the Panthers’ first run. Then, with the bases loaded, Sprague was hit by a pitch that drove in Stefanski, which was then followed by Zieff walking to allow Morrow to score the tying run.

But that 3-3 score did not last long. At the bottom of the second inning, a series of fielding errors committed by Middle Park’s defense allowed the Eagles to take the lead with four unearned runs.

Although the Panther defense firmed up after that, the damage had been done and Middle Park’s batters were unable to close the scoring gap.

“If we had played good, clean defense for the entire game, we would have been right there with them,” Newberry said. “As for our batting, we hit the ball hard, but right at them. We also gave up nine strikeouts. We have got to do a better job of getting the bat on the ball, getting the ball into play and putting pressure on the other team.”

Zieff pitched all six innings, giving up three earned runs, four unearned runs and three walks while earning four strikeouts. After a brief break Saturday afternoon, the two teams went back at it in the second game of the doubleheader. While the Panther batters continued to have little luck, the team’s defense played very well holding the Eagles scoreless through the third inning. Faith Christian finally got one run on the scoreboard at the top of the fourth inning.

However, the fifth inning proved to be disastrous for the Panthers’ hopes of splitting the doubleheader. A single, an infield error and a walk loaded the bases, which Faith Christian’s cleanup batter then cleared by blasting a triple deep into center field.

Before the Panthers finally made the third out, the Eagles scored three more runs.

Faith Christian posted three additional runs in the sixth inning and two final runs in the seventh. Middle Park did get runners on base, but left them stranded in the last innings.

Stefanski pitched 4-1/2 innings to be relieved by Moore who pitched to the middle of the seventh inning. Strang came into close and got the final two outs.

“We played them tough through the fourth inning and I thought Mike Stefanski did an outstanding job pitching those innings,” Newberry said. “Our learning moment in this game is that when you get behind in the count, the advantage goes to the hitter. Faith Christian used that to their advantage while we did not have the patience we needed.”

The Panthers plan to get back on the victory trail this Saturday when they take on the Buffaloes of Bishop Machebeuf in another doubleheader. The games are scheduled for 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

“We are now focused on Machebeuf, which is another top team,” Newberry said. “We’ve already forgotten about our losses to Faith Christian.”

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