Outlaws land six on All-Conference teams
EVANSTON — The 2023 season may not have ended the way the Evanston Legion A baseball team would have liked, but a handful of players were deservedly recognized for their accomplishments on the field.
Six Outlaws received postseason honors following the West District Tournament in Lovell last month, with Walker Wilson and Brecken Rich named to the 2023 West All-Conference First Team, and the 2023 All-State Second Team.
Ryder Wilson, Braxton Bauer, Gavin Oliver and Jacson Osborne were named to the West All-Conference Second Team.
“Getting six kids on the first and second-team All-Conference teams is huge,” said Outlaws manager Nick Small. “I think we might have had the third-most kids out of all the teams in the conference, and that’s just a testament to what these kids are capable of.”
Though Walker Wilson and Bauer graduated in May, all six of the Outlaws’ All-Conference picks will be back next season, which bodes well for this young team.
“Hopefully, the kids take this season as a learning season, and really put their noses in and get the work done for next year,” Small said.
Wilson had a stellar season for the Outlaws in all facets of the game, though he emerged as one of the top pitchers in the state in Class A. The talented right-hander appeared in 14 games, posting a 7-2 record with an ERA of 3.23; he also led the team in strikeouts with 51
Wilson got it done at the plate as well, hitting .305 with 25 RBIs out of the No. 2 spot in the lineup.
“Walker brought the most consistency to the team, as far as pitching and hitting,” Small said. “His batting average was up over .300, which is where we needed it to be, and on the mound, he did very well. Walker is a teammate and a friend to all of these kids — they all look up to him for his leadership, and I thought he accepted that role really well this year.”
Rich was also a consistent starter on the mound for the Outlaws, appearing in 15 games and posting a 4-5 record. He finished with a 7.11 ERA, and was tied for second on the team in strikeouts with 49.
At the plate, Rich hit .295, with 38 hits, including five doubles, a triple and two home runs; he knocked in 20 RBIs on the season.
A utility infielder when he wasn’t on the mound, Rich finished with an .852 fielding percentage on 81 total chances, with 49 putouts and 20 assists.
“Brecken had some highs and lows at the plate — he’d go on a five-game hit streak, then hit a five-game drought,” Small explained. “But he started hitting the ball really well toward the end of the year and into the postseason, which really helped us. We’re hoping he gets a little more consistent at the plate next season, and he pitched really well for us this season — he’s been a workhorse for us the last few seasons.”
The Outlaws’ leadoff hitter for most of the season, Wilson hit .321, and was second on the team in hits with 44, including seven doubles, a triple and 25 RBIs.
Wilson also appeared in seven games as a relief pitcher, striking out five batters, though his claim to fame was as the Outlaws’ center fielder, where he covered a lot of ground and made some fantastic plays.
“We had a bit of a family feud going into the season — Walker had been our center fielder for the last couple of years, but I knew we’d be wanting to use him on the mound quite a bit, as well as at catcher,” Small explained. “Center field is a position much like short stop — I don’t like to change that around much if I can help it. So I moved Ryder to center field, and he took that role as captain of the outfield and did really well for us. He can run down about any baseball that’s hit out there.”
A fixture at first base the last couple of seasons for the Outlaws, Bauer led the team at the plate with a .382 batting average, smacking 42 hits — including nine doubles and a home run – and was third on the team in RBIs, with 33.
One of two seniors on the roster, Bauer was also counted on by Small to provide leadership to the younger players and was rarely seen without a smile on his face, and an encouraging word for his teammates.
“Braxton is a hard out at the plate — he has a very good sense of the strike zone, and he puts the ball in play, hits it hard,” Small said. “He won’t chase a pitch — he’s a very disciplined hitter for us.”
The Outlaws’ starting shortstop for most of the season, Oliver was moved from the leadoff spot to the No. 3 spot in the lineup, to take advantage of his bat. Oliver responded to the move by hitting .357 for the season, leading the team in extra-base hits with 15 (6 doubles, 5 triples and 4 home runs) and driving in 36 runs.
As a pitcher, Oliver finished with a 2-5 record, but led the team in saves with four; he finished the season tied for second in strikeouts with 49, and an ERA of 4.94.
“For the last couple of years, Gavin was our leadoff hitter, but watching him hit this year, we realized he has a pretty dangerous bat,” Small explained. “We moved him into the 3-hole, and did extremely well. He played a lot of shortstop, and we’d bring him in as a closer for us, and he accepted that role very well for us. I was very pleased with how Gavin would come in for us late in games and lock it down for us.”
With Hank Allred opting not to return to the Outlaws this season, the opportunity was there for a player to step up and claim the catcher position as their own.
Enter Jacson Osborne.
“Jacson’s a stud, that’s all I can say,” Small said. “I would have to double check, but I think, since the Green River Tournament, I don’t think he’s given up more than three or four passed balls. Something clicked with him, where he decided he was going to take ownership of that catcher position. It was no longer ‘Can you catch?’ — he was already putting the catcher’s gear on before the lineup card was written. He got into baseball shape for us, and he could catch a doubleheader when we needed him to.”
Osborne got it done at the plate, as well, batting .333 with 41 hits — including eight doubles — and 36 RBIs.
As a pitcher. Osborne appeared in eight games, posting a 2-3 record, with 21 strikeouts and an ERA of 4.36.
“Jacson is a tough out at the plate — he doesn’t strike out very often, and he’ll put the ball in play,” Small said. “He’s just an all-around stud for us.”