SHERIDAN — For the 2013 Sheridan Troopers, there have been times this season when last year’s record-breaking year has seemed more than a distant memory.
Monday night’s two-game sweep of the Laramie Rangers helped.
A nomadic team in 2013, which before last night had played all but eight games on the road, Sheridan (19-20) brought the total package for its home crowd Monday. They defeated Laramie (23-19-1), 6-3 and 11-1, in a non-conference doubleheader at Thorne-Rider Stadium behind two strong pitching performances.
Kyle Atkinson’s line was nearly perfect minus a three-run third inning made possible by two errors. The hard-throwing, high-kicker from Clearmont got the win while allowing seven hits and walking only one batter. He struck out seven and went the distance in game one.
Kevin Bakkehaug worked out of multiple jams and Sheridan finally got their bats going to force a late 10-run rule in game two.
Sheridan’s previous two home games were drawn out struggles, stunted by walked batters and multiple pitchers, and after a 3-2 weekend in Billings, they looked on-track for the final four games of the season before state.
“It feels great,” head coach Ben Phillips said. “We had our senior night tonight and the days are winding down, some of the last ones these guys are going to get to play together. For one of the last couple times they’re at home in their careers, I thought they played really well. They played great defensively, and our pitching was awesome tonight. Probably the best we’ve had back to back games all year.”
Sheridan looked relaxed despite playing their seventh game in the last five days, traveling to Billings each day over rodeo weekend. Even as their coach admitted his team being tired, they held up Monday.
“For Kyle and Kevin to come out and eat up those innings, it saved our bullpen, and it saved our arms,” he said.
“It was great all the way around. I was very pleased.”
Atkinson stayed on top of batters through the first four innings, and had a grounder to keep that going to begin the fifth, but he skied the throw over first baseman Kaul Eisele. The very next play was similar, as his throw to first deflected off Eisele’s glove. The Rangers would capitalize on the back-to-back errors, using two hits to score three runs, but Atkinson would get a strikeout to end the threat and strand two baserunners.
“You’re going to have bad innings in baseball” Phillips said. “There’s going to be errors, there’s going to be mistakes. You’ve just got to be mentally tough enough to battle through it and I thought they did a good job. Kevin threw great tonight, I wasn’t expecting five innings out of him at all.”
Held up by Atkinson, Sheridan took some time to get going at the dish. One Trooper, Will O’Dell, had a hot bat on his senior night as he slapped three singles through the infield, reaching in all of his plate appearances in the first game. Matt Mullinax’s sacrifice fly scored O’Dell in the fourth inning, and Tony Mort scored on a passed ball to give Sheridan its first lead.
Sheridan fell behind briefly 3-2 in the fifth after the two errors, but Connor McCafferty lasered a home run to right-center field and O’Dell singled in Mark Munson to give Sheridan a 4-3 advantage. Drew Adriaens doubled to deep center to score Mort and Skyler Holwell in the sixth to seal the win.
“We’ve been hitting a little better lately, but today we struggled with the bats,” Phillips said. “We could have hit a little better, but like I said, these guys are tired. That was what was so impressive about the pitching and the defense. Maybe our team can learn that if we’re not hitting the ball that well, if we play good defense, tighten things up and throw strikes, then defense and pitching wins games, not offense.”
In game two, with a three-hit effort, Bakkehaug worked out of a bases loaded jam in the third, and stranded six Rangers in all over four and a third with help from his defense and seven flyouts. Mullinax, at catcher, ended a two-run threat in the fifth inning with a diving snag in front of home plate on a Laramie bunt attempt to hold a 1-1 tie.
Sheridan broke things open in the fifth inning when Laramie pitchers’ walks piled up and a seven-run Sheridan frame put the contest away. Mort had a bases-clearing double in the fifth, and O’Dell’s two-run triple finished the damage in the sixth. O’Dell had a 4 RBI night.
After some rest, Sheridan will attempt to play out the remainder of their season with similar consistency as this 5-2 run is one of their best all year, back within a game of .500. They’re in Laramie and Cheyenne July 22 and 23 before returning to Sheridan for their final home game, July 24 against Casper.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
Laramie 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 3 7 0
Sheridan 0 1 0 1 2 2 6 11 3
Pitching: Kyle Atkinson 6.2IP, 7H, 1BB, 0 ER, 7K
Hitting: 2B: T. Mort, D. Adriaens, M. Munson, W. Odell, K. Eisele HR: C. McCafferty RBI: D. Adriaens 2, C. McCafferty, W. Odell, M. Mullinax
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
Laramie 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 4 2
Sheridan 1 0 0 0 7 3 11 6 1
Pitching: Kevin Bakkehaug 4.1 IP, 3H, 1ER, 5BB, 2K; Skyler Holwell 1IP, 0H, 0ER, 0BB, 2Ks
Hitting: 2B: T. Mort, K. Eisele 3B: W. Odell RBI: T. Mort 3, W. Odell 3, K. Eisele
Troopers on senior night: Kaul Eisele, Drew Adriaens, Skyler Holwell, Matt Mullinax, Will O’Dell, Kevin Bakkehaug, Josh Loseke (injured), Mark Munson and Tony Mort.