Grand County Preps: Panther baseball, soccer battling through leagues; track teams continue progress |

Grand County Preps: Panther baseball, soccer battling through leagues; track teams continue progress

Andy Bockelman
For Sky-Hi News
West Grand's Brayden James and Wyatt Howell make a successful handoff in the boys 4x200-meter relay.
Andy Bockelman/For Sky-Hi News

Recent weeks have seen the win records rise for Middle Park High School in both baseball and girls soccer, while times on the track keep getting lower for both the Panthers and their West Grand companions.

Turning the corner

It’s been a run of pros and cons alike for Panther baseball as athletes have had to accept a Frontier League title might not be in the cards, yet postseason possibilities are still very much in their future.

Middle Park players rallied at just the right time during a Saturday doubleheader on the road against Sheridan. With their first match the one counting for conference credit, neither the Panthers nor the Rams wanted to drop it, but Sheridan was holding a 4-0 lead heading into the top of the fifth inning with their talent on the mound a concern for Middle Park.

“They had a good pitcher and we had to stay in it and finally got him deep in his pitch count, rattle him for a couple runs and get into their bullpen a bit,” said Middle Park head coach Patrick Gallegos. “We had to push through their ace, and that’s where strong defensive baseball keeps you in a game in a tough situation.”

The Panthers started catching fire in the sixth, collecting plentiful runs and holding Sheridan scoreless from there for the 6-4 victory.

“I’m kind of an old school coach; I like to get our three outs and go hit. I like our defense to push our offense. That’s what we’ve done: control the game defensively and put the pressure on offensively,” Gallegos said. “That was a real important win for us. That’s the kind of baseball we like to play.”

The following part of the series had less weight to it as far as the Frontier standings, yet the momentum was still on Middle Park’s side as they pounded the ball for 20 total hits in the 11-6 win.

In the latter game, Victor Laynes added two triples, while fellow senior Jack Nance hit a double and a triple. The two also combined for seven strikeouts, while junior Caden Hanson notched six K’s in the first game.

It was an end to a week that also included one of the Panthers’ biggest wins so far, 20-1 on April 20 over DSST: Montview, in which freshman Joseph Gagnon brought down eight batters.

“We’ve used a real pile of pitchers so far this year and been pretty successful, held our ground even with some freshmen getting their work in,” Gallegos said. “We know what we have in teams like that, so we work on specifics in those kinds of games. You can learn a lot even in a blowout.”

The rout of the Knights was on the heels of Middle Park’s most humbling loss, 17-1 against The Academy on April 18.

The defeat stopped short the Panthers’ four-game win streak, during which they were 68-8 in scoring.

Gallegos said he was expecting Academy to be among the biggest competition this season, though the silver lining was players’ ability to bounce back against Sheridan.

Now 7-4 overall and 4-1 in the Frontier, MPHS baseball will head into this weekend ready to make a statement that if they can’t have the top spot in the league, they’ll be firmly in second place.

A home game against 1-10 Jefferson — 4:30 p.m. Wednesday — will prime the Panthers for a Saturday showdown against Bennett, hoping to hand the Tigers their first league loss.

“Since I’ve taken over the program, Bennett has been the team that’s been a thorn in our side, so we wanna go to their house and beat them on their field,” Gallegos said. “It’s a big one for us and a big one for the program as a whole. If we can get a win there it holds us in a really good spot for playoff contention.”

As of Monday night, Middle Park was 18th in 3A baseball’s Ratings Percentage Index, which plays significantly into playoff determination.

Providing The Academy stays undefeated, the Panthers will need to take the route of mowing down everyone they can to stay statistically among the top teams in the state.

“Once you know you’re not going to win your league, you’ve got to get every win you can against every opponent to push that RPI score high enough to get yourself in that first round of the playoffs and give yourself a shot at a state title,” Gallegos said. “That’s everybody’s dream and the ultimate goal anywhere you go.”

Still on top

While Middle Park baseball stays alive in the conference conversation, the Panthers have yet to see significant league competition so far on another field.

But, that moment is approaching.

Middle Park girls soccer is 7-0 in Frontier standings, having seen no losses since late March, with a 4-4 draw earlier this month against Basalt leading into an absolute tear through the league schedule.

The tie with the Longhorns was also the last time the Panthers allowed a goal with four straight Pinnacle, and 6-0 over Bennett.

In that stretch, senior Lily Smith has twice achieved a hat trick with junior Emry Burns accomplishing the feat once as well. With a healthy amount of goals and assists alike, the two are both in the Frontier’s top five in terms of total points.

However, their big test will be against the league’s leading scorer, AJ Loera, of The Academy, who has scored more than 40 goals so far this season for the Wildcats.

While Academy’s 10-2 record bests that of Middle Park, the Westminster school’s lack of competition puts them lower on the RPI list, standing at 18th to the Panthers’ 11th as of Monday night.

Middle Park girls will face non-league opponent St. Mary’s with a home game at 1 p.m. Saturday before their road matchup May 2 with The Academy that will likely decide the league title.

Right on track

Middle Park and West Grand track and field teams are each seeing strong progress in their seasons as they head into upcoming respective league meets in the hopes of fielding state teams.

Saturday’s Huskie Invitational in Parker proved a place for Middle Park athletes to hit some of their best results in multiple events.

Hurdlers Allison VanBemellen and Leah Cormican in particular crushed their previous best times, as Cormican just missed picking up points with ninth place in the 300-meter race at 59.15 seconds, while VanBemellen was helped along by the wind in the 100 hurdles, down to 17.77 to place 13th.

With their best placement of the day, the Panthers girls also placed second in the 800 sprint medley relay and brought their time down to 2:05.34, as well as fifth in the 4×800 (12:14).

In field events, Madison Trail repeated her 21 feet 10 inches best throw in the shot put from a week earlier, and also added nearly 8 feet to her discus toss, reaching 71 feet. As far as points for placement, Carrie Trupek fought through a strong wind to place seventh in the long jump (13 feet 7 inches) and Madison Moyer took eighth in the high jump (4 feet 5 inches).

For the Middle Park boys, Kadin Starr’s first go in the 800 run saw him take a team best at 2:22.18, with Ewan Gallagher bringing his season best to 5:26.96 in the 1600.

In a similar vein, shot putters Micah Byrum and Blake Allen fought it out with Byrum hitting a 36 feet 3 inches to lead the team, while Keaton Fox added 20 feet to his previous best in the discus, now the one to beat on the roster at 82 feet 7 inches.

As far as points, the 4×800 relay group placed seventh (9:59.69) and the 4×400 bunch placed eighth at a new low of 4:00.66.

After hosting the High Country Pole Vault meet on April 19 — during which Ollie Bergman hit a season best 10 feet 9 inches for fourth place — West Grand athletes were in the mix in many more events during Friday’s Coal Ridge Invitational.

The 4×200 relay groups had some of the Mustangs’ best outcomes on the track, each setting their best times of the year.

Levi Edson, Bergman, Brayden James, and Wyatt Howell placed third among boys at 1:34.63, while Maddy Probst, Taylor Martinson, Lillie Steinle and Sara Lechman were sixth for the girls (1:54.61).

Elsewhere, Joe Probst brought his time in the 110 hurdles down to 17.28 for fifth place, Edson and Howell took fifth and seventh in the 100 dash (11.8, 11.81), Bergman fifth in the 200 (25.03).

Bergman and Galen Wilkinson also tied for second among several others in the pole vault at 10 feet 4 inches.

Though they missed out on points, new team bests in the 800 run and discus were set as Alejo Aguilar-Pineiro clocked in at 2:26.21 and Jackson Steinle threw for 79’ 10”.

For West Grand girls at Coal Ridge, Hufford elevated to 8 feet 4 inches for a new team benchmark and third place in the pole vault, while Audree Miller tied for fifth in the high jump (4 feet 8.5 inches).

Jumping was the name of the game as Wendy Eller was short on points but set new team bests in both the triple jump (24 feet 9.75 inches) and the 300 hurdles (1:00.65).

This weekend sees Middle Park attend Roosevelt’s Randall Hess Invite and West Grand heading to Steamboat Springs.


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