SHERIDAN — The Troopers seem to have grown out of their regular season woes, especially with pitching and their ability to battle back from adversity.
The Troopers got two impressive starts in their first two games of the Legion ‘AA’ State Tournament, but were only able to get the win in one of them.
Blake Godwin got the start for the Troopers in their opening-round matchup against the Jackson Giants on Wednesday, pitching seven innings that coach Ben Phillips said kept Sheridan in the game.
The Troopers were losing 5-0 in the fifth inning before stringing together eight runs on their way to an eventual 12-10 victory.
But it was Godwin’s ability to hit the strike zone that put the Troopers in position to win the game.
Godwin struck out four Jackson batters while only walking three, which Phillips said has been a big deal for his team all season.
“That’s what baseball is, pitching and defense,” Phillips said. “A good start really helps, especially in a nine-inning game.”
The state tournament forces the Troopers to play nine-inning games, as opposed to the usual seven that they consistently played throughout the season.
Phillips said it makes it much easier to have guys fill in in the eighth and ninth innings as opposed to having to use numerous guys throughout the game.
“If we can get a guy to eat up innings for us, it’s huge,” he said. “As a coach, if you don’t have to worry about adjusting your whole lineup in the third inning, it makes it much easier. Blake did that for us against Jackson.”
Nine-inning games also give the Troopers more time to respond, which Phillips says is the message he is relaying to his team throughout the tournament.
Although the Troopers lost last night’s matchup against top-seeded Gillette, 11-10, the fifth-seeded Troopers aren’t out of the tournament just yet and Phillips doesn’t want his team to dwell on the past.
“We have to forget the woulda been, coulda been, shoulda been,” he said. “We let a win slip through our hands, but now we have to focus on today’s game and take it one page at a time.”
Connor McCafferty pitched six and one-third solid innings against Gillette, but the Troopers caught the error bug in the seventh, which put them in a tough hole to climb out of.
Tied 4-4 through six innings, the Troopers committed four errors in a row, allowing seven runs in the inning.
A Will O’Dell bases-clearing double in the eighth sparked a six-run inning, but the Troopers were unable to score the tying run, giving them the one-run loss.
“It really showed these kids that if they believe in themselves, they can succeed,” Phillips said of his team’s resiliency, despite the loss. “They could have shut down and quit like we’ve done sometimes this season, or they could look it in the face and battle it. We played really well against the number one team at their home.”
The Troopers will look to get a bounce-back win and continue their season when they battle the winner of the Cheyenne/Jackson matchup today at 4 p.m. If they lose, their season is over, but a win would put Sheridan in the semifinals tomorrow at 1 p.m.