Granby " Panthers sweep doubleheader against Kent Denver
Sky-Hi Daily News
With their playoff prospects hanging in the balance, Middle Park High’s baseball team got the victories they needed by whipping a top Metro League team in a home doubleheader on Saturday, April 19.
Hosting the Sun Devils of Kent Denver, the Panthers swept the doubleheader by scores of 7-3 and 8-4.
“It’s so good to win,” said coach James Newberry. “We’re now tied for third place in the Metro League with Holy Family.”
Going into the first game of last Saturday’s doubleheader, the Panthers knew they had to play smart against a team as tough as Kent Denver. Their plan worked well until the top of the third inning when they slipped up, allowing the Sun Devils to jump into the lead with three unearned runs.
“Finding ourselves down 3-0 woke up our bats because we then started hitting in the bottom of the third inning,” Newberry said.
Panther senior Alex Morrow got things started by batting a single, followed by Justen Strang and Mike Zieff walking to load the bases. Mike Stefanski then hit a single that drove Morrow in to score the team’s first run.
But Middle Park’s scoring was not over yet. Chad Sprague stepped up to the plate next and blasted the ball over the outfield fence in a three-run homer that put the Panthers into the lead 4-3.
“Our defense then held Kent and we got three more insurance runs at the bottom of the sixth inning,” Newberry said.
Middle Park’s sixth-inning scoring began with leadoff batter Justen Strang singling, but then being forced to wait at first base after the next two batters made outs. Just when it looked as if he would remain stranded there, Sprague came up to bat and belted a single into the outfield that drove him into score.
Keeping the momentum going, Panther sophomore Jordan Reynolds then stepped to the plate, and surprised everyone by blasting his first home run of the season over the outfield fence to score both Sprague and himself.
Zieff earned the win by pitching all seven innings of the doubleheader’s first game, allowing only three unearned runs and six hits while making five strikeouts and giving up no walks.
“Kent Denver had a very good lefthanded pitcher who didn’t give us anything until the third when we capitalized on those walks,” Newberry said. “Our learning moment in this game was to take advantage of the other team’s mistakes. We didn’t allow ourselves to get frustrated by a good pitcher, but kept our focus.”
Carrying the momentum from their win into Saturday’s second game, the Panthers racked up two runs at the top of the first inning. Morrow began it again with a single and then was driven in to score by a double belted by Stefanski. Sprague then earned the RBI by driving in Stefanski to score the second run.
At the bottom of the first inning, the Sun Devils narrowed Middle Park’s lead by earning a run of their own, but the Panthers added to the points spread at the top of the third inning by adding two more runs.
Middle Park’s two runs in the third inning were earned by once again taking advantage of Kent Denver’s mistakes. Both Zieff and Stefanski got on by errors with Zieff scoring first on a single batted by Reynolds and then Stefanski following him to homeplate on a fielder’s choice by P.J. Cross.
But the Sun Devils were not giving up without a fight. At the bottom of the third inning, they scored another unearned run on Panther errors, and then tied the score 4-4 in the fifth inning by scoring two runs with a homer.
After Kent Denver’s defense held Middle Park in the fifth inning, the Panthers were getting a bit worried, but their concerns were quickly wiped away at the top of the sixth as their batters once again began connecting with the ball.
Middle Park senior Ian Sutton began the sixth inning rally by batting a single and then stealing both second and third bases. He then put the Panthers up by one run by stealing home on an error that also sent Strang to first base.
Sutton’s run rattled the Sun Devil defense, which then committed a second error by allowing Zieff to get to first base as Strang sprinted to second. Both base runners then advanced on a double steal.
With runners at second and third bases, Stefanski then stepped to the plate and belted a double that scored two more runs as Strang and Zieff crossed homeplate.
Stefanski then scored the team’s eighth run on a single batted by Reynolds.
Stefanski pitched six innings, giving up four runs, five hits and four walks while earning seven strikeouts. Moore came in as his relief.
“This was the first time this season we’ve allowed the other team to tie us up late in the game,” Newberry said. “How we responded in the sixth inning showed that we kept our focus to make the win. This team has the uncanny ability to pull together when it needs to.”
Middle Park expects a real fight as they host Holy Family’s Tigers in a doubleheader on Friday. The games are scheduled for 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on the Panthers’ home field.
“We can’t afford any letdown against Holy Family,” Newberry said. “We don’t have to play perfect, but just better than in our last games. We’re tied right now for third place in the league with Holy Family. This could be a great opportunity for Middle Park baseball.”
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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.