Former Delta High School graduate Jerry Sandoval has made it to the top of the ladder in coaching prep sports. Sandoval has coached softball for many years at various levels and shares an obvious enthusiasm for softball with his first-year varsity team. Sandoval replaced baseball and softball coach Steve Reiher as the Panthers' head softball coach.
Sandoval has several years with the program, coaching at various levels within the program. Many players have played for Sandoval in the summer club-ball programs.
There are 22 athletes currently participating in the program with a handful of seniors heading the list. Sarah Parker plays the outfield as does Shyanne Steele. Both are expected to be mainstays for the Panthers. Also in the mix is Breanna Sprout who catches.
The final two seniors listed on Delta's roster are Kestra Arrington and Eloise Norfleet (both play in the outfield).
Jenna Sutliff will lead a list of six junior players this season. Sutliff has been a starter in previous seasons and will anchor Delta's infield and be a major threat with a bat.
Sami Lane has landed a spot on the mound for the Panthers in 2017 and can also fill in at infield positions.
Joining Sutliff and Lane from the junior class are Alyssa Trujillo (C), Tatum Saddoris (OF), Desiree Garcia (INF) and Ashley Lahoe (INF).
The 2017 Panthers will feature a pair of freshmen on this year's roster. Hailee Ruble (P) and Keely Porter (INF) will see plenty of playing time for Sandoval's Panthers.
Delta played its first game of the season on Aug. 22 in Basalt where a come-from-behind effort resulted in an 11-9 victory.
"We were a bit nervous. We have a young pitching staff that is untried. Sami started the game and Hailee Ruble came on to finish beginning in the fourth," quoted Sandoval.
Delta lost some power hitters, which included one of the best in the state in Lily Lockhart who finished with 19 home runs last season. "We hit the ball well throughout the lineup."
The Panthers took a 2-1 after two innings and a solo home run by Sutliff gave Delta a 3-1 lead.
A four-run fourth put Basalt ahead, 5-3, until the sixth inning when Delta scored four runs for a 7-5 lead. The Panthers finished the game with another four-run burst in the seventh for an 11-5 advantage. The Longhorns took some swings in the bottom of the seventh and scored four runs of their own to make the final score 11-9.
Freshman Keely Porter led Delta's hitting attack with a 3-5 performance, including a double and an RBI. Sutliff's 2-4 day at the plate resulted in a home run and a double resulting in four RBIs. Steele had one hit in five plate appearances which produced two RBIs.
Basalt's Morgan Ash was 3-3 with an RBI.
Ruble was the winning pitcher for Delta and Ash the loser for Basalt.
Delta played in last Saturday's softball tournament hosted by Eaton. The Panthers were to play Eaton, Elizabeth and La Junta. Delta plays Faith Christian in Gunnison on Sept. 2 at 12 noon.
Next week's action has the Panthers hosting Durango on Sept. 8 for doubleheader action beginning at 3 p.m.
Sandoval sees a good season ahead and offered one diagnosis for success. "Our biggest thing will be staying out of our own way this season."
Delta found playing on the road, and an overnight experience, a difficult way to start the season.
Game one, against Elizabeth, found Delta trailing 11-1 going into the fifth inning. A seven-run inning for the Panthers had the game more manageable at 11-8. Elizabeth's defense gave up a run to Delta's offense in the seventh while scoring six runs in the final three innings for a 17-9 win.
The Panthers were outhit 16-7 but had two long balls in the loss. Junior Jenna Sutliff had a home run while freshman Hailee Ruble was 2-4, scored twice and hit a home run for four RBIs.
Game two in Eaton took a nasty turn in the opening frame with La Junta's Tigers jumping on Delta pitching for 10 runs. Another five runs in the second inning allowed La Junta to cruise to a 15-3 win in five innings.
Senior Breanna Sprout had a single and two RBIs to pace Delta's offense.
The Panthers were tied with Eaton, 1-1, after two innings but an eight-run third frame powered the Reds to a 14-4 win in Delta's third game of the tournament.
Sutliff hit her second home run of the weekend and had a double for two of Delta's four RBIs. Junior Ashley Lahoe and Ruble also had doubles for the Panthers.
Delta hosted Montrose on Aug. 29 and will be in Gunnison this Saturday, Sept. 2, to face Faith Christian at 10 a.m.
Two fatal accidents occurred in Delta County within a two-day span last week.
Casey Gillenwater, 25, of Delta was killed the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 13, in a single-vehicle rollover on Highway 133 outside of Hotchkiss.