SHERIDAN — Plenty of quality at bats and, for the most part, solid pitching led to a 2-0 start for the Troop Saturday in Sheridan.
Sheridan withstood a rough second inning from opening day starting pitcher Drew Adriaens to take the first game 9-6 over the Cody Cubs at Thorne-Rider Stadium. In the finale, wild pitching by the Cubs helped the Troop to a blowout 18-1 win.
Adriaens returned to the mound strong for the Troop after a successful 2012 as he struck out the first four batters he faced Saturday, not having thrown in a live game since last year’s state tournament in August.
He redshirted for Montana State-Billings baseball team over the school year, and rejoined the Troopers as they played some long-awaited warm weather baseball on a rare 75-degree spring day in Sheridan.
Adriaens finished Saturday having thrown four and two thirds innings, allowing six runs on just two hits after briefly losing his command in the second inning. Cody scored four runs in the second when Adriaens plunked two consecutive batters right in the middle of the back, walking three home while allowing only one hit in the frame.
“Drew’s going to be fine, he just hasn’t seen a live batter in about eight months,” head coach Ben Phillips said of his starter.
Adriaens K’d nine batters Saturday while walking seven, but held command on the majority of batters he faced, delivering 17 first-pitch strikes.
“He’s just been doing bullpen work up in Billings. He’ll be fine, it was just a few mechanical things, other than that he should be good. You take away him walking six guys and hitting three, they probably don’t score a run. We’ll take it,” Phillips added.
Adriaens loss of command was brief, and the Troopers held him up with what looked like midseason-form hitting.
After their ace struck out the side in the first, Sheridan scored three runs on three hits to get the well-sized opening day crowd into the game.
Tony Mort’s lead off single turned into an RBI double from Connor McCafferty after the shortstop lined a ball to center field.
Adriaens drove in McCafferty and Kaul Eisele looped a ball to shallow left to score Josh Loseke, who had walked. A double play ended the scoring threat for the Cubs.
Cody’s big second inning granted them their only lead all day, and in the third, more smack-singles by the Troopers quickly turned the score from a 4-3 deficit into an 8-4 advantage.
Tony Mort got things started again for Sheridan as he advanced Tom Fenn to second with another roped-single to center field. Skyler Holwell scored Fenn with a single, then McCafferty lifted another ball over the infield to clear the bases for his second RBI double of the day.
The inning would end, but not before Eisele drove in McCafferty and Loseke to put the Troop out of reach. Tyler Stauffer and Loseke combined in relief to get the final seven outs for Sheridan, not allowing another run after Troy Kunow helped Cody get their final two runs on the board in Adriaens’ final frame in the fourth.
McCafferty finished with three hits and three RBIs with two doubles. Eisele had three hits and three RBIs as well, and Holwell tacked on another run in the sixth when he grounded a ball through the infield to center, scoring Matt Mullinax, finishing with two RBIs of his own.
“We had a lot of two-out hits today,” Phillips said. “A lot of times with runners in scoring position we got the hit we needed to get them in.
“Obviously the second game, their pitcher helped us by walking quite a few guys, but we also got hits when we had to and we did throw strikes, so we were able to open it up pretty early and coast through it.”
Cody showed more signs of early-season baseball rust in the second game. Sheridan scored 14 runs in the first inning and then tacked on four more in the second. Defensively they were helped by a solid, strike-zone pounding performance from Holwell on the mound.
He fanned five, allowing just one hit and controlling the strike zone for three full innings. Despite the result of the final game being an afterthought from the get-go, Sheridan managed to put the bat on the ball, not making any mistakes defensively with just one error in the two games combined.
“Defensively I didn’t have any harps on them at all,” Phillips said, his team playing Saturday on limited practice time due to the cold, wet spring. “We made the plays we should. This time of year we would be working on situational stuff, but today was almost like a scrimmage-type atmosphere for us, making sure everybody got to play, but it worked out well for us.”
Meanwhile, Cody pitchers, four in all, took turns walking Sheridan batters.
McCafferty would drive in three more runs in the second game, as would Loseke, while Adriaens notched two RBIs of his own.
Sheridan walked 12 times to Cody’s one in the win, and despite the scattered pitching, the Troopers out-hit the Cubs nine to one.
A sac fly from Kunow in the final frame scored the Cubs only run.
Sheridan plays another home doubleheader Saturday, this time with Powell, starting at 1 p.m. They’ll get two more in Cody Sunday, as they hope to increase baseball time after their spring practices were cut in half by poor weather.
“It will be a lot easier on our arms,” Phillips said. “Practicing in 30 and 40-degree weather isn’t fun, so it’s nice that maybe spring has finally arrived right before summer starts to get here.”