EVANSTON — “We kind of went into a slump and the state tournament is a bad time to have that happen,” Evanston Outlaws head coach Jason Lloyd began, as he recalled how the season ended for his baseball team, July 26-28, in Gillette.
Evanston enjoyed one of the best outings of the year against Jackson in their last game before the state tournament when they scored 16 runs on 17 hits in a 16-1 romp of the Giants in Jackson on July 20. The Giants went on to play for the state championship, eventually losing to the Casper Oilers, who won their first American Legion Baseball title since 1996.
The Outlaws followed one of their best performances with one of their worst, according to the head coach, during the team’s opening round state tournament pairing with the Sheridan Troopers, who delivered a 10-0 shutout to the Outlaws.
“We played one of our worst games at the wrong time. We started Ryan Fisher and he just wasn’t himself and Sheridan jumped on us pretty quick,” Lloyd said.
“We didn’t hit well and committed costly errors,” the coach added.
Evanston bounced back to defeat the Cody Cubs, 7-2, to stay alive in the double-elimination format of the state tournament.
“The Cody game was pretty decent. Seth pitched and I thought we pretty much had control throughout that game,” Lloyd opined.
“Then came Laramie, who we had beaten earlier this season. We went into that game confident but just couldn’t get our bats going until the sixth inning and by that time it was too late. I think we left the bases loaded three or four times,” Lloyd avowed.
“The front part of our lineup went into a bit of a slump and it’s just bad timing. I mean, Jackson goes into the state title game and we had defeated Jackson a number of times this season. But that’s why you play the games,” he added.
Lloyd elaborated on parity among the Class AA American Legion teams as it relates to timing, noting his team and coaching staff watched the Rock Springs Sand Puppies, a AA West Conference fourth-seeded team at the state tournament, who struggled to an 18-30 record this season, almost pull off a major upset. Rock Springs was in command through the top of the seventh inning against the Gillette Roughriders, the top-seeded team at the state tournament from the AA East Conference. The Roughriders, meanwhile, were 60-18 on the season.
Rock Springs led 1-0 with two outs and the Sand Puppies were one strike away from victory when the Roughriders tied the game and ended up with a 2-1 eighth-inning win.
“But that’s the fun thing about the state tournament,” Lloyd said.
“Everyone goes in with a 0-0 clean slate.”
Lloyd and his assistant coaches Chad Thompson and Jason Mitchell have all coached their own sons this season — Seth Lloyd, Brendan Thompson and Jagger Mitchell, respectively. Those types of father-son scenarios can present a whole additional dynamic to a team, but the Outlaw coaches and players seemed to manage the relationships without issue. With Griffin Mitchell and Beau Lloyd as part of the 2018 Outlaws roster, two coaches had a pair of sons in the program.
Lloyd and Cristofer Periman have played their final games in Outlaw uniforms but Reid Gross, Ryan Fisher and Thompson will be age-eligible for the 2020 season, according to the Outlaws skipper. American Legion Baseball is for ages 13-19, seventh grade through the first year of college, but graduated seniors may have other plans in store.
Fisher, for instance, will play baseball and continue his education at Olympic College in Bremerton, Washington.
Lloyd and Periman will have surpassed the age limit when the 2020 season rolls around, and Lloyd, like a number of recently-graduated seniors, will be called to serve an LDS mission. That’s likely where he will be come this fall but not before some more baseball. See the related story on Seth Lloyd.
The Outlaws head coach said he was proud of this year’s team and the fact that many younger players gained valuable experience for the future. With a 22-26 record, the team came close to notching 50 games this season, which was a team goal entering the 2019 campaign. The team will stage a postseason awards celebration later this month when players and coaches return from summer vacations.
Lloyd was named to the American Legion Class AA all-state first team for the second year in a row and Fisher was a second team all-state selection. Gross and Periman both received nominations for postseason honors. Lloyd was also in the running for the American Legion Baseball Class AA player of the year award and finished second in the balloting to Casper Oilers first baseman and pitcher Corbin Kirk.
“That’s really quite an accomplishment for Evanston Outlaws Baseball, to have four players nominated, two named as all-state players and one in consideration for player of the year honors,” the coach concluded.
The Outlaws were also the recipient of the sportsmanship award for the 2019 season, awarded during the state tourney.
Periman reflected on his Outlaw career and shared the following with the Herald:
“The experience of playing for the Outlaws has meant a lot to me. It is for sure one of the best things I’ve ever done and an experience I’ll never forget. The one thing I will really miss is being with my teammates. We were all like a big, wild family, who just loved baseball.”