Panther baseball season off and swinging |

Panther baseball season off and swinging

Larry Banman
Sky-Hi News Sports Correspondent

Middle Park High School figured to field a competitive baseball team this season after losing only three seniors from a ballclub that made it to the Sweet Sixteen last season in Class 3A baseball.

Coach James Newberry said his squad has started the season well, winning two of its three games, and the team has an expectation of repeating its success from last season.

This year’s team has several key senior players that just love to play the game, Newberry added. Leadership this season is expected from seniors Jordan Reynolds, Matt Hydrusko, Stetson Sabados, Shelby Garrett, Greg Doudna, junior Mitch Franek and sophomore Cort Brennan. There is also a core of younger players coming up, Newberry said, that “are going to be tough.”

Middle Park defeated Jeffersen Academy and Sheridan and lost to Greeley Central during the first weeks of the season. In the Greeley Central game, the Panthers took the lead, 7-6 in the sixth inning before the team from Greeley scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to win the game.

The Panthers traveled to The Academy in Denver on Tuesday and now face a layoff until April 19, when they travel to Denver to play Jeffersen High School. On April 24, Middle Park hosts the first of a 10-game home schedule when they play Arrupe Jesuit.

After three games, Sabados leads the team in hitting with a .667 batting average. He also leads the club in RBIs with six. Brennan and Reynolds are both hitting .500 and they have five and four RBIs, respectively. Garrett is one of the team leaders in RBIs as he has knocked in five runs this season.

Coach Newberry is quick to praise his kids: “They enjoy this,” he said, “and I believe it is good for them. We have kids that just love to play baseball and that makes a huge difference.”

The baseball team at Middle Park High School is somewhat unique in that it includes players from the entire county. West Grand High School in Kremmling doesn’t offer baseball, so kids from that district are permitted to play at Middle Park with no loss of eligibility. Two players, Sabados and Cody Wilson, travel daily to Granby to practice with the Panthers. The team also includes at least two players who live in West Grand but have chosen to attend school at Middle Park.

Newberry says it is a good mix of players and they soon find that attributes like talent and desire don’t have geographical boundaries. Baseball players in the county are also accustomed to playing against and with each other during summer Little League contests.

As is typical with spring sports in Grand County, weather is always a factor. The Panthers have yet to host a home game and Coach Newberry was hard at work this past weekend, helping to drain water from the team’s competition field. The dome that was built by the town of Granby has certainly helped both the baseball and soccer team prepare for their respective seasons. In fact, Newberry noted, on a recent blustery day that stretched throughout the entire state, the Panthers may have been the only team taking live infield practice in Colorado.

The team has taken an attitude of taking advantage of what opportunities it does have, Newberry said. The Panthers have also adopted an attitude of playing baseball and not arguing judgment calls by the umpires.

“I have been told by several umpires that they appreciate our attitude,” Newberry said. “I pass that on to the kids and I know they appreciate that respect.”

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