SHERIDAN — Sheridan starting pitcher Caleb Keller returned to the dugout after the top of the sixth inning Tuesday at Thorne-Rider Stadium with a stern plea.
“I need more runs,” Keller said.
In hindsight, Keller didn’t need any, but Race Johnston obliged anyway.
With the Troopers holding a four-run lead, Johnston cleared the tall wall in left field with a solo home run. That gave the Troopers more than enough cushion en route to a 10-7 win over Riverton in game two of a doubleheader. Riverton narrowly took game one 12-11 in eight innings.
“It was a slugfest,” Sheridan head coach Ben Phillips said. “… I liked [in game two] that we hit the ball the way we should have against the pitcher they were throwing against us. He didn’t have a whole lot of off-speed. He was mainly a one-pitch pitcher. So we started hitting the gaps.”
A nice westerly breeze consistently blew out toward left-center field Tuesday night. And while the wind cooled off fans, it had an inverse effect on the Troopers’ bats.
Sheridan — which has had its fair share of struggles at the plate during the early portion of the season — heated up. The Troopers in May had slogged through a stretch of eight losses in nine games in which they only tallied a combined 11 runs in the defeats. Tuesday’s games showed the continued improvement at the dish as Sheridan has tallied 44 runs in the past five contests combined.
“It’s getting better,” Phillips said. “It’s getting better, slowly.”
Johnston represented a small sample size of that improvement as he went a combined 5 for 8 Tuesday with six RBIs.
“I started feeling better as we went through and got a few more at bats,” Johnston said. “I started looking at pitchers and that helped me become more and more patient.”
Johnston got the Troopers on the board initially in the bottom of the first inning with an RBI ground out. Johnston added to his total with RBI doubles in the third and fourth innings, respectively.
Keller pitched into the seventh but couldn’t quite finish the deal, so Quinn McCafferty came on in relief to minimize the damage and hold Riverton to three seventh-inning runs.
McCafferty logged a couple of hits, as did Jaren Brewer, while Ayden Roush had a pair of RBIs to go alongside his two-hit game.
Sheridan played catchup for the majority of the opener. After falling behind 4-0 entering the bottom of the second frame, Sheridan scored three in the second and five more in the third, fourth and fifth innings to level the contest at 8.
Riverton put up four runs in the top of the eighth inning, and Sheridan nearly rallied once again before falling just short.
Jacob Boint boasted three hits and two RBIs in game one, and Kellen Mentock had two hits that knocked home a total of four Troopers.
Eric Taylor got the start and lasted 4 2/3 innings, surrendering four earned runs. Carter Dubberley came on in relief and yielded three earned runs in two innings pitched, and Austin Borzenski closed the game, giving up four earned runs in 1 1/3 innings of work.
The Troopers travel to Rapid City Friday before retuning home for a doubleheader against Laurel Sunday beginning at 1 p.m.