Troopers take to the cages

SHERIDAN — Troopers Coach Ben Phillips said that despite fielding what will likely be a young team this year, he believes Sheridan’s baseball team has the opportunity to succeed.

“This year looks pretty positive,” head coach Ben Phillips said. “We have some kids coming back from last year, but also have a lot of new athletes coming in. The new athletes will have to step up and play successful, in order for our team to be successful. I’m confident in those athletes coming in.”

The Troopers finished thier 2013 season taking third place in the state tournament, ending with a 27-29 record.

Phillips noted that despite a having a young team, he plans to take the same approach to the game that he always does. It may just take the younger athletes some time to adjust to the higher level of competition, he said.

“In the first couple of weeks I will be working on getting in shape and mechanics,” pitcher Kyle Atkinson said. “I struggled a little last season from coming in late in the season. But this year I am confident to be better with a full season.”

Phillips said that Cheyenne is likely the best team in the state and in order to beat them the Troopers will have to be nearly perfect. He added while Casper has larger player populations to choose from and seem pretty solid, but Sheridan’s team has typically fared well against the them.

Troopers player Connor McCafferty was All-State last year, and Phillips said he believes McCafferty will be the best player in the state in 2014.

“He is a great kid to work with and coach,” Phillips said.

Other key contributors will be Atkinson, Ethan Hoopes, Will O’Dell and Matt Mullinax.

“These players are great leaders and will help contribute to this season,” Phillips said.

Atkinson, Phillips said. will be the team’s top pitcher.

“He is a tall kid who throws the ball hard,” Phillips said.

The team is currently practicing at the new indoor facility located behind the Trooper’s field in Thorne-Rider Park.

First baseman Kris Clark said he is focusing on mechanics and refreshing his hand-eye coordination.

“Looking around, we have a young team and our future looks bright,” Clark said. “We have a lot of talent on this team and as soon as the younger players get introduced into this program and get use to the system we will be strong.”

Phillips added that the team likely won’t get outside to practice for another couple of weeks. The indoor facility, he said, helps his players stay fresh.

“The pitchers will be able to practice in the bullpens to stay in time,” Phillips said. “This will help keep them from wearing out in the first half of the season. Half of the team practices in the batting cages and the other half practice hitting the ball off the bat stand.”

The Troopers first game will be May 4 at Billings.

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