During the first few innings of its April 8 game against Shiprock, the Montezuma-Cortez High School varsity baseball team played like a junior varsity.
Over the course of the final three innings however, the Panthers turned things around, making a rousing comeback before losing 8-7 on their home field.
Early on in the contest, the Panthers struggled as starting pitcher Ian Roberson surrendered five runs during a difficult top of the first inning.
“We just didn’t start out the first three innings,” said Roberson. “We’ve just got to find (our intensity) early on.”
Settling down over the next two plus innings however, Roberson held Shiprock batters in check before giving up three runs in the top of the fourth inning as M-CHS fell behind 8-1.
The Panthers’ offense soon came alive however and after scoring one run in the bottom of the fourth inning, M-CHS scored five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to cut the deficit to 8-7.
“I saw them play with a different mannerism in the final three innings than they have in any other game,” said Panthers’ manager Mathew Betts.
Continuing to apply pressure in the bottom of the sixth inning, Panthers’ first baseman Bridger Brenner reached base after an error by Shiprock’s first baseman.
Later in the inning, consecutive singles by Dayne Black and Andrew Laymon loaded the bases with two outs as Panthers’ slugger Randy Haley came to the plate.
After taking consecutive pitches to begin his at bat, Haley bunted through a suicide squeeze attempt and Shiprock’s catcher easily tagged Brenner out at home.
“I was trying to get it tied up,” said Betts of the risky squeeze play. “It was the first time that (their pitcher) threw two straight balls all inning. It was just bad luck.”
The Panthers had another opportunity to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh inning after Ryan Haley lined a sharp single up the middle and stole second base.
Konnar McGee, Raudy Castillo and Kevin Morales were unable to drive him home, however.
With their season record now at 5-6-1, the Panthers will next play at home against Fruita Monument on April 11 before taking on Montrose on April 12.