A 12-game winning streak came to an agonizing halt last Saturday with a 20-17 loss to Valley in the Region 8 3A championship game. Many hope this year's adventure in Class 3A will be a common occurrence.
The Panthers waltzed past Rye, 15-1, to gain a berth opposite Valley, a 12-2 winner over Alamosa.
Everything was working against Rye (10-8) with the Panthers easing to a 3-0 lead after the first inning. Justin Violett hit the first of two home runs in the inning with Tristan Brown aboard.
Drake Horn retired the side in order in the top of the second. Delta's offense went to work in the bottom half of the inning and hammered 10 hits and scored 11 runs, including Violett's second two-run home run of the game.
Horn set the Thunderbolts down in order for the second straight inning to keep Delta ahead 14-0.
Delta's final run came after Damon Jensen walked to start the bottom half of the fourth and later scored on Tristan Brown's fielder's choice.
Cristian Hall was on the mound for the top of the fifth and the right-hander got two ground ball outs and struck out the last batter to preserve a 15-1 decision.
Violett was the leading hitter for Delta with two hits in three at bats, including two home runs and six RBIs. Jensen was 3-3, scored four times, hit two doubles and knocked in three runs. Ethan Keller was 1-3 with a home run and two RBIs. Reiher had three hits and drove in two runs for the winners.
Horn picked up his fourth win of the season for Delta.
Against Valley the Panthers appeared to be on the same offensive path they had taken against Rye. The Vikings started with a bang as Jose Mercado ripped a triple and scored on Tyler Kissler's sac fly to center field.
Delta's half of the first inning produced four runs on two hits, including Violett's grand slam home run (the third home run of the day for the senior).
Jaspar Carmichael allowed a single by Raul Rios to start the second inning but picked him off for the inning's first out. After that Carmichael struck out the side.
Delta's half of the second frame was another good offensive showing. Trevor Myers, Jensen and Blake Reiher got hits. With two outs in the inning, Violett delivered a sharp double to score two runners. Carmichael followed Violett with a single and scored the fourth Panther run of the inning on Ethan Keller's single to take an 8-1 lead.
Valley's Mercado reached base on a fielder's choice in the top of the third and Kissler drove him in with a double to make the score 8-2.
A Josh Reeder walk set the table for Myer's two-run home run and a 10-2 lead after three innings of play.
The Vikings began hitting the ball in the fourth inning and scored five runs on six hits and an error in the outfield. The Panthers still owned the lead at 10-7.
Valley kept its offense going in the fifth with four more hits to score four more runs and take an 11-10 lead.
Delta got a threat going in its half of the fifth with a double from Reeder, a single from Myers and a walk to Jensen to load the bases. Reiher flew out to the shortstop for the first out bringing Brown to the plate. Brown's opportunity for a grand slam home run came to fruition with a shot that caught the wind and carried deep over the fence. Delta regained the lead, 14-11.
The Viking's offense had gained much-needed momentum with success found in earlier innings. Another four-run inning, highlighted by a Dillon Rudd home run gave the lead back to Valley, 15-14.
Delta's offense wasn't finished either and Reeder's two-run smash sparked a three-run rally, which began with Ty McCurdy's double.
A bizzare seventh inning started with a walk for Valley. A string of three hits was broken up by Tylyn Nash's walk followed by Rudd's single capped a six-run seventh that elevated the Viking's lead to 20-17.
The Panthers got singles from Carmichael and McCurdy but couldn't keep the string of hits going to fall 20-17.
Violett was the last of four pitchers on the mound for Delta and took the loss.
Violett was, again, Delta's top run producer with two hits in four plate appearances. He scored twice and had a home run (third of the day) and a double to account for six RBIs. Brown's grand slam helped him drive in five runs while scoring twice himself. Myers and Reeder had two RBIs each with Myers going 3-3 and Reeder batting .500 (2-4) and scoring three times himself.
Cesar Mercado earned the win for Valley with just one inning of work.
Delta's season comes to an end with a 16-5 record.
Number six Valley moves on to face third-seeded Faith Christian at Niwot High School in a 12:30 p.m. contest.
Thanks to the efforts of state Rep. Millie Hamner, House District 61, Colorado State University plans to re-open the Rogers Mesa research site.
The facility was taken out of operation in 2011, due to budget cuts throughout the CSU system.