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SHERIDAN — That 2012 season is going to be hard to match.
As the 2013 Sheridan Troopers get new guys up to speed, they’re going to focus on things they can control.
For example, they can’t win a team-record 49 games in Saturday’s opening day doubleheader with Cody.
Head coach Ben Phillips admits that this year’s squad begins 2013 with plenty of unanswered questions after they set a record for wins last summer.
“We lost quite a few players from last year’s team who were quality baseball players and quality kids,” Phillips said. “That is our big unknown, how those young kids stepping into their spots are going to fit in. The good balance is that we have quite a few kids back this year too, and those are some kids that have been good leaders for a few years now.”
One of those leaders, 2012 All-State selection Drew Adriaens, will get the start on the mound in Saturday’s opener. The Troop will rely on returning starters like 2012 All-State catcher Josh Loseke and shortstop Connor McCafferty — a player Phillips said deserved an All-State nod last for his play in 2012.
Will O’Dell, Tony Mort, Kaul Eisele and Matt Mullinax will all step into even larger roles this season.
“Defensively we’ll be fine,” Phillips reassured. “We don’t have as much pitching depth, so that’s something we’re going to have to develop in the early going. We’ll have to have some kids step up if it’s going to be a successful year.”
With 72-degree highs forecast for Saturday, this weekend should be a good one to get out and watch some Troopers baseball. The same goes for the first two weeks of Sheridan’s season, which features a doubleheader with Powell next weekend and games with the Billings Scarletts and Cheyenne Post 6 May 11 and 12.
After that, the Troopers are out on the road playing some quality competition, including an especially enticing road trip to Omaha, Neb.
Sheridan is scheduled to play four games in Omaha, June 14-15, against teams including Creighton Prep. Phillips says that the Troopers have gone to Omaha in the past but not in recent years due to the trip’s cost.
“That’s going to be a great experience because we’re going to see some real quality teams, plus the kids will get to go and watch the College World Series,” Phillips said. “It’s definitely something we want to do every year in the future.”
First, Sheridan gets going with Cody Saturday, approaching the contest with limited preparation after a lasting snowy spring cut in half their preseason on-field practices.
“We tried to focus mainly on hitting and pitching, so we haven’t really worked on fundamentals,” Phillips said. “It’s going to be a little raw on Saturday. We should hit the ball, it’s just situational stuff that may arise because we haven’t had time to put it in.”
Fighting shortened practice time and approaching an April game for what it is, early, Phillips said it came down to a choice of nailing down pitching and hitting or focusing on situational things like bunts, cut-offs, relays and first-to-third plays.
Naturally, he chose the basics.
“We’ll look at this as almost kind of a scrimmage game,” he added.
Since last season, Adriaens redshirted for the Montana State University-Billings baseball team and has been throwing year-round. Phillips is confident in his opening-day starter, especially if the new-look defense backs him up well.
Cody was a talented team of 15- and 16-year-olds in 2012, and Phillips said he expects them to be a year older and a lot better.
Skyler Holwell, a new addition to the Troopers, will get the start on the mound in the second game.
“He’s very capable and he’s got really good stuff, I’m confident in him as well,” Phillips said.
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