Granby " Middle Park sweeps archrival Denver Christian in baseball doubleheader | SkyHiNews.com

Granby " Middle Park sweeps archrival Denver Christian in baseball doubleheader

Will Bublitz
Sky-Hi Daily News

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Middle Park High’s baseball team enjoyed some sweet revenge as the Panthers clobbered their archrivals, Denver Christian’s Crusaders, in a doubleheader on Saturday, March 15.

Played on the Crusaders’ home field in Highlands Ranch, the doubleheader saw the Panthers crush Denver Christian 12-2 after only six innings in the first game. The second game went only five innings with the Panthers winning 13-2.

“We 10-runned them in both games,” said coach James Newberry. “Neither game went the regulation seven innings.”

Under Colorado High School Activities Association rules, a baseball game will end after one team reaches 10 runs more than its opponent.

However, going into Saturday’s doubleheader, the Panthers were a bit worried after being beaten several times by the Crusaders in past seasons.

“I don’t mean to say we were intimidated,” Newberry said. “But we did come out a little nervous and tight because of our past history with Denver Christian. In past years, we hadn’t done very well against them.”

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That concern seemed to be confirmed in the first inning of the first game. The Crusaders got on the scoreboard first with a single run after Middle Park went scoreless.

It was not until the top of the second inning that the Panthers were able to respond. Middle Park senior Matt Stefanski got on with a walk, stole second and then advanced to third on a single hit by teammate Justen Strang. Chad Sprague then came up to bat and hit a sacrifice fly into left field that allowed Stefanski to sprint home to tie the score 1-1.

That tied score did not last long as the Crusaders scored their second run in the bottom of the third inning. But just as suddenly, the whole game began to change at the top of the fourth inning.

That change began with Strang singling and then stealing two bases before sprinting to home plate on a sacrifice fly batted by Sprague. Jordan Reynolds then got on base after being hit by a pitch, but soon scored another run on a double belted into the outfield by Ian Sutton.

“In the fourth inning, we started to get our game on track,” Newberry said. “But it was in the fifth that our bats really came alive.”

In that decisive fifth inning, Middle Park racked up seven runs. The Panther scoring spree began with the bases being loaded after P.J. Cross and Brian Moore both got on by errors and Morrow was hit by a pitch. Sprague then stepped to the plate and knocked the ball for a single that drove in both Cross and Moore.

The bases were quickly reloaded after Reynolds hit a single, but then Sutton blasted the ball into the outfield for a double to drive in both Morrow and Sprague. The rally continued with Zieff singling to drive in Reynolds. Before the inning ended, the Panthers posted two more runs.

At the bottom of the sixth inning, Middle Park ended the game early by racking up two more runs that kicked in the CHSAA 10-run “mercy rule.” Those final two runs were earned after both Stefanski and Strang walked, made a double steal and then sprinted across home plate on a single batted by Reynolds.

Zieff pitched all six innings of the first game, giving up only two runs, three hits and two walks. He earned eight strikeouts.

“Mike did another great pitching job, improving his record to two wins and a save,” Newberry said. “In Saturday’s game, he gave up only two walks but those two walks eventually scored. There’s a learning moment in that for him.”

That first victory of Saturday’s doubleheader gave the Panthers a huge boost in their self-confidence.

“When we came out for the second game, we were loose and felt a lot better, anticipating a sweep against Denver Christian, which is something we had never done before,” Newberry said.

The Crusaders were up first and scored first with a single run at the top of the first inning.

“Their batter walked, stole a base, advanced to third on a wild pitch and then scored on a passed ball. It was an ugly run,” Newberry said.

When the Middle Park ballplayers got their chance at the bottom of the first, they quickly set to work. Sutton, the Panthers’ leadoff batter, made it to first base on a bunt, stole second and third bases, and then was driven home by a single hit by Cross.

Stefanski then came up to bat and blasted a triple into the outfield driving in Cross for the second run.

Middle Park’s scoring spree in the first inning continued with Morrow earning an RBI by driving in Stefanski with a single. Strang then singled and stole second base as Morrow advanced to third. Sprague then earned two RBIs by batting a single that allowed Morrow and Strang to sprint across home plate.

At the top of the second inning, the Crusaders scored what was to be their final run of the game. It was another “ugly run” with a batter getting a walk, stealing second and then making it to home plate after two passed balls.

At the bottom of the second, Middle Park once again revved up its scoring machine. Sutton led off with double and then sprinted to home plate on a single batted by Zieff. Moore followed Zieff on base with a walk, but then both advanced on a double steal. Both base runners soon scored on a single hit by Stefanski.

The Panther defense quickly shut down Denver Christian at the top of the third inning, which allowed Middle Park’s batters to go back to work. Strang began it with a triple, but was soon driven home by a double batted by Sprague, who eventually scored on a single batted by Sutton.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Middle Park essentially put the game away. Stefanski, the leadoff batter, blasted the ball over the outfield fence for a home run. Morrow got on base next with a single, but then was driven home on another homer batted this time by Sprague.

With the score now standing at 13-2, Denver Christian had one last chance at the top of the fifth inning. They had to score at least two runs to stave off CHSAA’s 10-run rule, but once again the Panther defense shut them down and forced the game to end early.

Stefanski pitched all five innings, allowing two unearned runs and four walks while striking out 11 Crusader batters.

“This was Mike’s first time pitching this season,” Newberry said. “His first couple of innings were a little rocky, but he settled down for the last three. He struck out seven of the last nine batters that he faced.”

Newberry commended the entire team for their performance Saturday.

“It was a great feeling to go to Denver Christian and sweep them in a doubleheader,” he said. “We had great senior leadership from all seven of them, especially Sprague, Sutton, Stefanski and Zieff.”

Middle Park High’s ballplayers will be playing another doubleheader on Saturday against Faith Christian. The games start at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

“Faith Christian is currently 11-1,” Newberry said. “Most years, we don’t look forward to playing them, but we are this year.”

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