SHERIDAN — The Sheridan Troopers team that showed up at Thorne-Rider Stadium against Laramie on Monday must have taken the night off for their doubleheader against the Casper Oilers last night. On their final night at Thorne-Rider, lackadaisical play doomed the Troopers in a two-game blowout at the hands of the Oilers.
Neither game went well, but as the season trend has been, the Troopers put too much pressure on themselves from the get go. Coach Ben Phillips has questioned his team’s leadership throughout the season, but the biggest problem for this Sheridan team is simply their immaturity. Not immaturity in a sense that the kids go out on the field and goof off, but immaturity as in a team packed with freshman and sophomores who haven’t grown into their bodies and are expected to play against 18- and 19-year-olds.
When the Troopers face tougher, bigger teams like they did last night, that immaturity sticks out like a sore thumb. They struggle catching up to speedier fastballs, making it difficult to put runners in scoring position.
The biggest problem, though, is pitching. It isn’t bad, just inconsistent. They don’t have bullpens loaded with guys that can throw in the 80mph range like most of their opponents do.
“You get frustrated,” Phillips said. “But you have to sit back and think that it’s not that they don’t have the talent, it’s just that the other kids that we’re playing sometimes are bigger and stronger. That’s just small town baseball.”
After the Troopers got thwarted 16-7 in the first game, the second game started out OK before an Oiler grand slam sucked the air out of the stadium. The crowd, the biggest of the season, tried their best to rally the team, but the damage was already done.
The frustration mounted, though, when Casper didn’t necessarily hit the ball well, but were rewarded free bases.
In the first game, the Oilers scored six runs in two innings. The problem: they scored those six runs on only three hits. Four walks and two hit batters later, the Troopers were in a hole they couldn’t dig out of. That was the story of the night.
In the first inning of game two, with two outs and a 0-2 count on the batter, Tyler Stauffer hit the batter, allowing Casper to score two runs in the inning. All three base runners on the second-inning grand slam reached base by walks or being hit by a pitch. Two walks and a wild pitch led to two more runs for Casper in the fifth inning. The pitchers just couldn’t find the strike zone.
The Troopers followed up their nine-run game one loss with a 9-2 loss in game two.
One positive about having a young team is that you get to watch them develop. Every once in awhile one of those sophomores shows what he is capable of. Last night it was Blake Godwin.
Godwin caught game two, and put on a show that Yadier Molina would have stood and applauded. It’s impressive to throw out a runner trying to steal in a game. Throwing out two gets your name in the paper. Throwing out five is SportsCenter worthy.
Not only did Godwin throw out five runners attempting to steal, he went 5-5. All five times the Casper coach sent a runner, Godwin hopped up out of his stance and mowed them down like a bug on the windshield of an 18-wheeler speeding down the highway.
“Our new strategy for this year, since our pitchers hit so many batters, is we’ll just hit guys and have Blake throw them out, save our pitch counts,” an impressed Phillips joked about his catcher’s performance.
The Troopers need to grow up fast. They only have three games left before the state tournament on July 30. Their next game will be Monday in Billings.