Granby " Panther baseball team almost squanders 11-run lead in home-opener |

Granby " Panther baseball team almost squanders 11-run lead in home-opener

Will Bublitz
Sky-Hi Daily News

After taking a huge lead, Middle Park High’s Panthers forgot Yogi Berra’s aphorism that “it’s not over ’til it’s over” and barely fended off a strong comeback by Denver Lutheran before finally pulling off a 14-12 win in their first home game of the season Tuesday.

“It was really the tale of two games,” said coach James Newberry. “Our pitchers dominated the first four innings, but then we started falling behind in the count, giving up walks, making a couple of errors and allowing them to get some hits. That allowed Lutheran to get back in the game.”

Monday’s game got off to a spectacular start for the Panthers. After shutting down Lutheran’s batters at the top of the first inning, Middle Park racked up a five-run lead at the bottom of that inning.

Panther senior Alex Morrow got the first inning’s scoring spree going by batting a single, followed by Justen Strang who did the same. Mike Zieff then picked up the RBI by hitting a single to drive in Morrow to score the first run.

After Mike Stefanski reloaded the bases after getting a walk, Middle Park senior Chad Sprague stepped to the plate and blasted the ball far over the outfield fence in a grand slam home run. It was his third homer of the 2008 season.

After that batting bonanza, the game went through a scoreless second inning, but things began to heat up at the top of the third inning as a Lutheran batter connected with the ball for a home run.

At the bottom of the third, Middle Park’s offense went back into action, racking up six more runs. With the bases loaded, the first run scored on a fielding error. That was followed by Moore belting a single into the outfield to drive in base runners Stefanski and Reynolds. Then to top off the inning, Panther senior Ian Sutton blasted a homer that scored Cross, Moore and himself.

The Panther defense held strong in the top of fourth inning, followed by Stefanski slamming a home run over the outfield fence at the bottom of the inning.

“Going into the top of the fifth, the score was 12-1 and we were feeling pretty good about ourselves,” Newberry said. “If we held them again, the CHSAA 10-run mercy rule would have kicked in to end the game.”

But Lutheran had other ideas, and suddenly their bats came alive. By the end of their turn at bat, the Lights had racked up six runs and put any chance of ending the game early out of sight.

At the bottom of the fifth, the Panthers regained their composure after Sutton and then Zieff blasted back-to-back home runs to raise the score to 14-7.

“We still had the lead and we started feeling comfortable again,” Newberry said.

That was a nearly fatal error because Lutheran put five more runs up on the scoreboard at the top of the sixth inning.

“They nearly caught us,” Newberry said. “We only ended their turn at bat with a strikeout and then making a double play with the bases loaded. What made it even tighter was we then got nothing at the bottom of the sixth.”

With the score now 14-12, the Panthers had to somehow hold the surging Lights at the top of the seventh inning. And that’s exactly what they did.

“Our pitcher Justen Strang shut them down,” Newberry said. “In a superb double play, he threw the ball to Zieff, the shortstop, for the out at second, and then Zieff threw it to Cross at first base to make the final out.”

Zieff, Stefanski and Strang shared the pitching duties Tuesday, earning a total of nine strikeouts.

Middle Park High’s Panthers will be hosting a home doubleheader on Saturday against Kent Denver’s Sun Devils. The games are slated for 10 a.m. and noon.

“This is another key league matchup for us,” Newberry said. “This is a chance for everyone to see us play on our home field.”

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