RANGELY | Mother Nature proved to be the driving force for Colorado as usual on April 17 as the Rangely Panthers and Meeker Cowboys had to make a last minute change in their game plans. The Panthers were scheduled to travel to Meeker and take on the Cowboys but with snow blanketing the field at Paintbrush Park in Meeker, the games had to be moved to Rangely. Sophomore pitcher Dylan LeBleu took the mound and the Panthers jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. The Panthers scored two runs on a fielding error made by the Cowboys and took the lead into the second inning. In the top of the second the Cowboys capitalized on a pair of Rangely field errors and took the lead 3-2. The Panthers answered back as senior Kobe Broome drove in junior CJ Lucero for the Panthers to tie the game at 3-3. The game stayed at 3-3 heading into the top of the fourth inning where LeBleu gave up five runs in the inning and yielded to relief pitcher Ryan Richens, freshman, who gave up two runs in the same inning and the Cowboys took a commanding 10-3 lead over the Panthers.
The Panthers answered back with one run in the bottom of the fourth making the game 10-4. The Cowboys tacked on six more runs in the top of the fifth and sixth innings making the score 16-4. The Panther attempt at a comeback had fizzled when junior Tristan Moore scored three runs on a triple and plated three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to keep the Panthers from losing due to the mercy rule. Each team failed to score in the seventh inning bringing the game to an end with a 16-7 win for the Cowboys. Offensively, the Panthers were led by juniors Drew Brannan, Stetson Cudo and CJ Lucero. Brannan went one for two and plated two runs for the Panthers. Lucero went one-for four but scored three times for the Panthers. Cudo added to his day with and single and a double.
In the second game of the double header the Cowboys jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning and never gave up the lead for the rest of the game. Junior Drew Brannan took the mound for the Panthers throwing four innings while giving up six hits and seven runs. Junior Stetson Cudo came in as relief for the Panthers and threw for two innings, giving up eight runs on six hits. Offensively the Panthers were led by freshman Ryan Richens who was able to get two hits in four at-bats while scoring one run for the Panthers. Moore stayed hot at the plate as he smacked a single that scored three runs for the Panthers as the Cowboys had one throwing error on the play that allowed Brannan and Richens to score for the Panthers.
Weather was a factor again as the Panthers traveled to Delta High School on April 21 to take on the Hotchkiss Bulldogs, ranked #5 by CHSAA in the 2A classifications. The game was moved at the last minute due to Hotchkiss’s field not being playable for the double header. The Bulldogs came out swinging and scored five runs in the bottom of the first inning and nine runs in the bottom of the second inning against Panthers’ pitcher, junior Tristan Moore. Moore was coming off of a strong pitching performance against Aspen from two weeks ago, but Hotchkiss had plans to derail his performance. The Panthers also faced a tough match as the Bulldogs ace pitcher, Jonathan Gonzales, proved to be unhittable in the first three innings of the game. During the top of the fourth inning LeBleu was able to get the bats going for the Panthers as he smacked a seeing-eye single to right field ending the no hit bid for Gonzales. Stetson Cudo followed in the same suit as he hit a Texas big-leaguer type of hit to right field and move LeBleu over to third. Followed by a wild pitch strike out that moved Cudo to third, junior Trenton Files came up and drove a hard line drive down the right field line and scored LeBleu and Cudo making the game 16-2 in favor of the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs plated one more run in the bottom of the fourth and kept the Panthers scoreless in the top of the fifth to capture the win.
The Panthers rebounded well as LeBleu took the mound for the Panthers and kept the Bulldogs off balance after settling in and leading the Panthers. Files kept hitting for the Panthers with another hit and another RBI for the Panthers as they plated two runs in the top of the second inning. The Panthers again scored one run in the top of the third inning as LeBleu scored on a hard single hit by Brannan. This score brought the Panther to three and the Bulldogs to four. The Bulldogs were able to plate one more run in the bottom of the fourth inning to make the score five to three which ended up being the final score in the game. The Panthers did attempt a comeback in the top of the seventh inning as Moore drove a ball off of the wall in the left field power alley with one out in the inning. LeBleu came up next and drove the very next pitch to deep left field but the Bulldog left fiedler was able to make a great over the shoulder catch and keep Moore at second base with two outs. Brannan then came up next after Cudo drew a two-out walk. Brannan smacked the ball to deep left field and the Bulldog left fielder caught it to end the game.
The Panthers, as young as they are, continue to show great growth as a program and will look to enact revenge on the Meeker Cowboys on April 28 at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at Paintbrush Park. The Panthers will then play the loser of the Meeker/Hotchkiss matchup in the pigtail play in game for a spot in the 2A Western Slope district tournament.