SHERIDAN — Wednesday night’s Sheridan Troopers home send off had all the late drama a baseball fan could ask for.
Unless that fan was rooting for the Troopers.
After an absent night at the plate through the first six innings, Sheridan scored one in the seventh and three in the eighth to fight back, tying the score 4-4 entering the ninth. Then, in a matter of less than five minutes, the Casper Oilers (48-24, 2-2 League AA North) tacked on four runs to earn an 8-4 win and even their conference mark in the two teams’ final week of the regular season.
Sheridan (19-24, 2-3) dropped its fourth game in as many nights. The two teams play again Saturday at 6 p.m. in Casper before moving on to Cheyenne for the Wyoming Legion State ‘AA’ Tournament next week.
Gillette lost to Cheyenne Post 6 last night, keeping Sheridan in third place behind Cheyenne and Casper.
In some ways, Sheridan’s night was representative of its 2013 season; there was the usual resolve from starter Drew Adriaens on the mound, but the Troopers were bitten by nagging struggles at the plate.
Before a seventh-inning RBI single by Kaul Eisele, Sheridan managed just one hit against Oilers pitcher Dillon Schellenberger.
Magnificent for the road team from the Oilers’ point of view, Schellenberger’s low-in-the-zone control left Trooper batters confused all night. His final line spoke for itself — two hits, one earned run, three walks and 10 strikeouts in seven innings.
In the eighth, against a new pitcher, Sheridan matched its hit total from the previous seven innings and forced two Casper pitching changes in the frame.
Tony Mort woke up the decently-sized farewell crowd with a stand-up double, and with two outs, Sheridan scored three runs on an error and two bases-loaded walks.
What happened next was enough to make a coach lose sleep at night.
Sheridan reliever Connor McCafferty pitched two clean innings up to the top of the ninth, until he was credited with all four of his earned runs in the final inning. But it was a team loss. Sheridan’s defense was stunned, back on their heels.
Casper capitalized, and fast:
—Error, lead-off man reaches.
—Perfect bunt through the right half of the infield, two on.
—Another seeing-eye bunt, this time through the left side, bases loaded.
—Hard-hit two-RBI single over third base, Casper leads 6-4
—RBI base hit up middle, 7-4.
—Sacrifice fly to center, Casper 8, Sheridan 4.
The air was let out of Thorne-Rider Stadium, and what was left of Sheridan’s wounded rally hopes exited with it when Tony Mort’s lead-off hit in the bottom of the ninth was gobbled up by a spectacular diving catch in center field. A strikeout and a groundout ended the contest.
Adriaens, a returnee on loan from Montana State University-Billings’ baseball team, departed Thorne-Rider Wednesday night for the final time with just two runs earned on four hits, striking out five. He worked out of several early jams, stranding five batters over his five innings of work.
Eisele earned his second RBI on a walk in the eighth and four different Troopers had hits.
After fighting back to within one game of .500 on the year last week, Sheridan’s tough week (two losses to Laramie and one each to Cheyenne and Casper) has left them again searching for answers in an up and down year.
State begins Wednesday.
Box score: July 24, Casper at Sheridan
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
CASPER 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 4 8 11 1
SHERIDAN 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 0 4 4 3
Oilers hitting: 2B: C. Huber RBI: Z. Mathson 5, D. Reese, D. Doyle SF: Z. Mathson, D. Doyle ROE: Durtche 2
Troopers hitting: 2B: T. Mort RBI: E. Hoopes, K. Eisele 2 ROE: D. Adriaens
Oilers pitching: D. Schellenberger 21 outs; 7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 10K; Birkle 0.2 IP, 2 H, 0ER, 1BB 1 K; Chambers 0 IP, 2BB; Doy Le 1.1 IP, 1K
Troopers pitching: D. Adriaens 5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K; C. McCafferty 4 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K.
Next up: Sheridan at Casper, 6 p.m. Saturday