Granby " Panther baseball team sweeps doubleheader at Colorado Academy
Sky-Hi Daily News
After falling in back-to-back doubleheaders to two top Metro League teams, Middle Park High’s baseball team desperately needed a victory going into spring break, which is exactly what the Panthers got in a doubleheader against Colorado Academy on Saturday, April 5.
Middle Park swept the two games against Colorado Academy on its home field in Denver. They won the first game in a 9-0 shutout and then polished off the doubleheader with a 6-2 victory in the second game.
“These were two very good league wins for us,” said coach James Newberry. “We really needed them. I was concerned that we wouldn’t have the focus going into spring break, but our players really wanted to win.”
That will to win was evident in the first game as the Panthers shut down Colorado Academy’s batters while racking up nine runs of their own.
“The big story was the pitching by senior Mike Zieff,” Newberry said. “He went all seven innings, giving up only two hits and two walks while striking out 11 batters. He pitched a two-hit shutout, which I’d say that was quite a performance.”
While Zieff and the Panther defense thwarted Colorado Academy at bat, Middle Park’s offense began to heat up in the third inning. Before the Panthers finished that inning, they put five runs on the scoreboard.
Panther senior Joey Coucke got things started in the third inning by hitting a single, followed by another single batted by junior Justen Strang. With two men on, senior P.J. Cross then slammed a single into the outfield to drive them both in to score.
Keeping the rally going, Zieff then singled to join Cross on base. They were soon joined by Mike Stefanski, who walked to load the bases. Senior Chad Sprague was then hit by a wild pitch hit that sent him to first base while Cross trotted across home plate to score.
With the bases still loaded, Panther sophomore Jordan Reynolds stepped to the plate and connected with the ball for a single that earned two RBIs as Zieff and Stefanski sprinted home.
“That third inning was definitely our big one of the first game,” Newberry said. “Then we earned three more runs at the top of the fourth inning while shutting down Colorado Academy once again in the bottom of the fourth.”
In that fourth inning, Zieff demonstrated that he can hit as well as pitch. After senior Alex Morrow and Strang had gotten on base, he blasted the baseball deep into the outfield for a triple that scored both base runners. Zieff then scored after Stefanski belted a single to pick up the RBI.
With eight runs already in their pockets, the Panthers earned one more run for insurance in the sixth inning. Cross singled, advanced to second on a sacrifice by Zieff and then scored on a single batted by Sprague.
“Our batters did a great job, but it was Zieff’s pitching that shut down the other team’s offense by dominating their batters,” Newberry said. “Colorado Academy only got two base runners to third base twice during that entire game and never scored. That was a great job by our defense.”
Middle Park’s pitching again proved decisive in the 6-2 win over Colorado Academy in the second game of the April 5 doubleheader.
Stefanski pitched six innings, giving up only two unearned runs and two hits while earning 10 strikeouts. Moore came in to close and pitched one inning in which he struck out all three batters.
“We earned a total of 13 strikeouts in seven innings,” Newberry said. “That was some excellent pitching by two seniors in an outing against a conference team.”
As the second game began, Colorado Academy was first on the scoreboard with an unearned run at the top of the second inning. But the Panthers soon took their one-run lead away from them.
At the bottom of the second inning, Middle Park began another scoring spree, racking up a total of five runs. Stefanski got the ball rolling by rocketing a shot deep into the outfield for a triple that drove in Zieff, who had been hit by a pitch.
That set off a succession of RBIs by Middle Park. Sprague singled to drive in Stefanski, followed by Sprague scoring on a singled batted by Reynolds. Panther sophomore Matt Hydrusko then batted a single to earn an RBI by driving in Reynolds. The team’s fifth run was scored by Hydrusko on a double hit by Strang.
Middle Park’s sixth run came in the third inning. Stefanski got on base by belting his third triple of the doubleheader. He was then driven home by a single batted by Sprague.
“The only concern I had with that second game was that we scored only six runs on 12 hits,” Newberry said. “We missed some scoring opportunities, but our pitching made up for it somewhat.”
Following those two wins against Colorado Academy, the Panthers moved into fourth place in the Metro League rankings.
“We’re in a good position with the top five teams making the playoffs,” Newberry said. “We’ve got some big games coming up, and I think we’ll be playing them on our home field.”
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For the oldest members of the Middle Park High School girls soccer squad, it’s been a spring they won’t ever forget.