The 2020 baseball season is finally underway for the Evanston Outlaws B team, and the young ball club is making the most of the opportunity, winning four of its first five games.
“I think the team is looking really, really good,” said Outlaws B manager Todd Hoover. “There’s always room for improvement — probably at the hitting end, making a little better contact at the plate. Our defense is not where we want to be yet, but we’re going to get there — we’ll be really strong defensively, I think. And our pitching is coming on strong, with three really good pitchers and younger guys who are starting to throw strikes. Everybody is working really hard.”
The Outlaws opened conference play Wednesday at Ross Kesterson Field, sweeping a doubleheader against Bridger Valley 12-11 and 8-1.
Bridger Valley 11
In the opening game of a day/night home doubleheader against Bridger Valley, the Outlaws shook off a 10-run second inning by the Regulators to claw their way to a 12-11 win.
Ethan Beus got the start on the mound for Evanston and had a solid first inning, getting the first two batters he faced to ground out. Bridger Valley drew first blood with a single and a run-scoring triple to take an early 1-0 lead; Beus struck out the next batter to end the inning.
The Outlaws answered in the bottom of the first behind an RBI single by Talon Critchfield that scored Ryan Baldwin; the first inning ended with the score knotted at 1-1.
And that’s when the wheels came off — momentarily, at least. Beus struggled in the top of the second — after striking out the first batter he faced, the righthander gave up a single and back-to-back walks to load the bases, setting the stage for a 10-run inning by the Regulators. When the dust finally settled, the Outlaws were down 11-1, and faced the very real possibility of the game ending early.
“We dug ourselves a hole early, but as a coach, I thought if we could chip away — a couple of runs here, a couple of runs there — we could get right back in it,” Hoover said.
Evanston began their rally in the bottom of the third, plating two runs to cut the lead to 11-3. Baldwin led off the inning with a single, and would later score on a passed ball; Crithfield tallied his second RBI single, knocking in Jayden Schneider for the second run of the inning.
The Outlaws’ bullpen took over at that point, with Booker Day replacing Beus on the hill. Day was dialed in, pitching two innings of no-hit ball, as Evanston continued to chip away at the lead, taking advantage of miscues by the Regulators’ defense. The Outlaws scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth to make it 11-7.
“I was worried about what we were going to do with the pitcher situation, but Booker Day came on and did fabulous for us,” Hoover said. “I don’t think Ethan Beus got some of the calls he deserved — the strike zone was a little tight for him. I think it got into his head a little bit. He’ll work hard and come back stronger than ever in his next outing.”
Evanston’s Hank Allred took the mound in relief in the top of the fifth, and after giving up a leadoff double, promptly settled in, striking out three of the next four batters he faced. The Outlaws continued their rally in the bottom of the fifth — a two-out single by Bodie Wicks and a double by Baldwin sert the table for Allred, who helped his own cause with an RBI single, cutting the lead to 11-9.
“The attitude of the team — once they felt like the momentum had started to shift and we held them to a couple of scoreless innings — was that they felt like they had a chance,” Hoover explained. “We went with Hank Allred after Booker Day did a good job for us, and Hank got some big strikeouts that kept us in the ball game, gave us a chance to win.”
Allred continued to deal in the top of the sixth, again holding Bridger Valley scoreless. Evanston took the lead for the first time in the game in the bottom of the sixth — Day hit an RBI single, then stole home a short time later to tie the game at 11-11. Quinton Elmer scored the game winner on a passed ball, and Allred once again proved to be unhittable in the top of the seventh as the Outlaws held on for the 12-11 win.
Allred picked up the win for the Outlaws, giving up no hits and no runs and striking out four in three innings of work.
Critchfield led the charge at the plate for Evanston, going 2-for-2 with 2 RBI and a pair of runs scored. Baldwin went 2-for-4 with a double and four runs scored; RBI singles for Baldwin and Day and a single by Wicks accounted for the rest of the team’s hits.
Bridger Valley 1
Game two of the doubleheader was all Evanston, as the Outlaws plated eight runs on nine hits in a lopsided 8-1 win.
“We were a little more disciplined at the plate for this one, we made better contact,” Hoover said. “We’ll keep working on that discipline so we’re ready for any kind of pitching we face.”
Jayden Schneider got the start on the bump and pitched a gem, giving up just one run on five hits and striking out eight in a complete-game win.
“Jayden Schneider was stellar for us,” Hoover said. “He pitched the whole game for us, and did an awesome job. He was spotting the ball really well.”
Both teams scored a run in the opening frame, with Evanston’s coming on an RBI double by Hank Allred that scored Ryan Baldwin.
The Outlaws added to their lead with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third to make it 3-1, then broke the game open with four runs in the bottom of the fourth behind RBI singles by Allred and Schneider.
After reaching base on a single, Evanston’s Braxton Bauer scored the final run of the game in the bottom of the fifth on a fly ball to center by Bodie Wicks, giving the Outlaws the 8-1 win.
The Outlaws were solid at the plate, pounding out nine hits in the contest.
Allred and Schneider had two hits each, with Allred leading the team with two RBI. Baldwin, Ethan Beus, Ryan Hoover, Quinton Elmer and Bauer finished with a hit apiece.
“We had some guys with big hits in key situations that allowed the game to roll in our direction,” Hoover said. “I honestly expected us to come out and score six or seven runs in the first inning and hit the ball all over the field, but we really didn’t do that. We maybe swung a little too hard, overthought the situation. But we settled down, and in key situations, when it was time to score, we did a pretty good job moving runners in.”
The Outlaws are on the road Friday for a game against Rock Springs. Hoover said the team is looking forward to playing someone other than Bridger Valley for once — the first five games of the season have all been against the Regulators.
“We’re looking to be more disciplined at the plate against Rock Springs, have more good contacts to come out on top,” he said. “I think our defense is a little sharper than theirs.”
Asked what his expectations are for the season moving forward, Hoover said he thinks the Outlaws can make some noise at state tournament time.
“I think we can be competitive at the state level,” Hoover said. “But my ultimate goal is to develop the players to be competitive at the next level of baseball.”