SHERIDAN — Midway through game two of a doubleheader, Sheridan Troopers head coach Ben Phillips left his normal post as third base coach and relocated down the first base line. He wanted to see if his new spot on the diamond would produce a more desired result with his team struggling at the plate.
In fact, it had the opposite effect.
“I rolled the dice and took a gamble and lost,” Phillips said.
Sheridan’s bats never woke up as they fell to Laurel 14-2 in six innings Sunday at Thorne-Rider Stadium. The Dodgers also took game one in come-from-behind fashion, 8-6.
The Troopers held a lead in the seventh and final inning of game one but let it slip away. The inability to close has reared its ugly head time and time again this season; however, Sunday, it had residual effect after the final out.
“After the first game we came out really flat,” Sheridan’s Ayden Roush said. “I feel like we really had the first game, and losing that game really hurt us. We just weren’t there mentally. That showed with lots of errors, hit batters, walks, stuff like that.”
Those troubles took place right from the outset of game two. Sheridan starter Caeden Sargent plunked the first three batters.
Sargent navigated his way out of the bases-loaded-no-out jam, only surrendering two runs, but he lost the confidence in his off-speed pitches, which made it much easier for Laurel batters.
“After he hit that first batter, he became a one-pitch pitcher,” Phillips said. “… He needs to determine and make up his mind if he wants to get up on the mound and be a bulldog or if he wants to get up there and pitch scared. I hope it’s the first of the two. That’s something as a coach I can’t get in between his head. Some people have the mentality to go out and pound the zone and pitch to contact and others get timid. Hopefully he’ll switch that around.”
Sargent yielded two more runs in the third inning when a pair of walks hurt him. After allowing a couple more free passes in the fourth, Sargent’s day came to an end.
Caleb Keller came on in relief and promptly gave up a three-run home run that blew the game wide open. The large deficit allowed an already flat Troopers squad to let its guard down even more, and defensive gaffs ensued.
Sheridan made a couple errors and a couple defensive miscommunications in the final two innings as the wheels completely fell off.
“Altogether there wasn’t any part of the game of baseball that we did well in that second game,” Phillips said. “… That’s a reflection of me and I’ll fix that in practice. If we aren’t executing the fundamentals, then that’s what we’ll do. We’ll do it until they’re so tired of them that they never want to do it again.”
Sheridan’s Race Johnston had the lone RBI of game two on a groundout.
Johnston recorded two hits in game one. Roush led the offensive attack with a three-run double in the bottom of the fifth inning that vaulted the Troopers ahead 6-4 before Laurel plated four in the top half of the seventh. Sheridan’s Quinn McCafferty, Jacob Boint and Michael Greer all knocked home runs in the loss.
The losses dropped Sheridan to 10-15 overall on the season. The Troopers travel to play Rapid City Post 320 Tuesday and don’t return home until June 26.