With a 1-3 record through Sunday in the Gillette Spring Classic Legion baseball tournament, the Evanston Outlaws earned a spot in Monday’s consolation round, squaring off against Sheridan for third place.
But after leading most of the game, the Outlaws were undone by one big inning, giving up six runs to the Troopers in the bottom of the fifth en route to an 8-2 loss.
“We led most of the game, then we had the one inning that got away from us,” said Outlaws manager Chad Thompson. “We made a pitching change, and Sheridan unfortunately liked the change that we made.”
The Outlaws got their bats going early. After back-to-back one-out singles by Conner Peterson and Jagger Mitchell, Ryan Fisher roped a double that cleared the bases, giving Evanston a 2-0 lead.
But just as quickly as the bats got going, they disappeared — the Outlaws managed just two more hits in the contest.
“We started off hitting the ball — we jumped right out with two quick runs — then the bats kind of went silent on us,” Thompson said. “We couldn’t add any more to it. Unfortunately at this age and this type of baseball, you’re not going to win a whole lot of games just scoring two runs.”
Mitchell got the start on the bump for the Outlaws, and was lights out through four innings, pitching himself out of a pair of jams with runners in scoring position in the bottom of the second and third and striking out four.
Still leading 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth, Mitchell began to struggle with his control, hitting two of the first three batters he faced. With two on and one out, Jordan Schneider came on in relief and gave up a triple, tying the game at 2-2. Sheridan plated four more runs that inning and two more in the bottom of the sixth to close out the 8-2 win.
The Outlaws finished with five hits, led by Fisher’s 2-for-3, 2 RBI performance. Mitchell added a pair of hits with a run scored, while Peterson finished 1-for-3 with a run scored.
Jordan Schneider was saddled with the loss, while Casey Periman also made an appearance in relief, giving up three runs on two hits (one earned) and striking out three.
Despite posting a 1-4 record for the tournament, Thompson said he was pleased with his team’s effort.
“There are always things to work on — I was happy with how the team responded in a few situations overall,” he said. “We had a goal going in that we were going to play Monday, and we made that happen — we achieved that goal. We really were in every game, and aside from the wheels coming off in certain spots, just mental errors, we competed well. Overall, for the opening weekend, I was happy.”
The Outlaws are back on the field this weekend for a tournament in Rock Springs — Evanston will play two games on Saturday and two more on Sunday.
“Like any weekend, we’re going into it looking to come out without a loss,” Thompson said of the Rock Springs tourney. “We get to see a couple more of the AA teams in Rock Springs and Jackson, see where we stack up against them and what they’ve got moving forward. Then we have a doubleheader against Green River — two weeks ago, they weren’t going to have a team, then last week they decided they were going to have a team. You always worry about the players losing out during these times, so we’re happy Green River was able to move forward with a season.”
With eyes on Wyoming, Spring Classic a success
With Wyoming one of the few states moving forward with a Legion baseball season, the Gillette Spring Classic served as a litmus test of sorts, with many organizations around the state (and across the country) paying attention.
“It was a little odd,” he said. “We knew there were a lot of eyes on the tournament itself, as far as how it was going to go. Some of the things that had to be done to make it happen — I know even a few high schools were watching, just to see for themselves what worked and what didn’t.”
Restrictions were in place and enforced, though it was worth it just to see players back on the field and playing games.
“They did allow some fans in, so it wasn’t dead silence,” Thompson explained. “But everyone was a little subdued — maybe not as boisterous as normal. But at the end of the day, we were playing baseball.”
Other social distancing measures included allowing only the starting players in the dugout — reserve players were required to sit outside the fence on the bleachers or on picnic tables.
“It was a difficult thing for the team, and a difficult thing for those reserves — to try and stay involved in the game,” Thompson said. “I felt like ours did a good job of staying involved and being ready to go, but it was definitely odd.”
Another unprecedented sight was seeing umpires wearing surgical masks and gloves, though Thompson said the boys in blue seemed to be taking it in stride.
“Our first game against Gillette, I was talking to the home plate umpire after about the second inning, asking him how it was [wearing the PPE masks],” Thompson said. “He said, ‘It’s not too terrible, but every time I go down to call balls and strikes, the mask rides up on my face.’” They were keeping their sense of humor about it.”