SHERIDAN — The Sheridan Jets look to perform well on their home field during the Wyoming American Legion State B Tournament this weekend. The tournament runs Wednesday through Sunday, with the championship game 11 a.m. Sunday.
To hoist a trophy at the end of the tournament, the Jets need to play their best baseball, said Sheridan Jets head coach Austin Cowen.
“Playing our best baseball at the right time of the year is a big thing,” Cowen said. “We are showing up with that expectation — to play our best baseball — and that is huge heading into the tournament.”
The Jets have been on a tear this past month, Cowen said. In July, the Jets played 16 games, losing only four. All of the losses came against out-of-state opponents — two losses against Pueblo, Colorado, July 6 and 7, and two single-run losses to Rapid City, South Dakota, Monday. Against in-state opponents this past month, the Jets have not only won, but in some cases won by a comfortable margin.
“We have been playing pretty good; I feel good about the tournament,” Jets player Rich Hall said. “We have been trending in the right direction, getting better and starting to peak at the right time of the year. All things go accordingly, we have a good chance of winning it.”
Belief and confidence in the team earning the title is the mindset the Jets should have, Cowen said. There is a fine line between confidence and cockiness in sports, but the Jets have been able to find balance.
“We want them to be confident and to think they are the best team in the tournament,” Cowen said “At the same time, it is our job as coaches to keep them focused and let them know they still need to show up and play hard. These other teams are going to show up with the same mindset as us.”
Cowen said the team needs to play hard and be ready for a dogfight each game.
The Jets received a small taste of a dogfight on Monday, losing two close games in a doubleheader against Rapid City. The Jets were able to learn how to respond being down early in a game, Hall said following the first game of the doubleheader.
Hall said the team needs to keep the mindset of not letting an early deficit affect their play and respond in the face of adversity.
The Jets found consistency by showing up with passion and energy, Cowen said. When the Jets have done this, the wins have taken care of themselves.
Eight teams will participate in the double-elimination tournament. Losing an early game does not mean the end of the tournament for the Jets, but it will force them to have to play more games, testing a team’s pitching, Cowen said.
“It is crucial to show up ready to play each game,” Cowen said. “You want to play as few games as possible. You do that by just winning ball games.”
Cowen said this year’s team will enter the tournament with more experience compared to a year ago, with a few veteran Jets players with state tournament experience.
Sheridan will face Rock Springs in the opening round Wednesday at 7 p.m. Jets enter with a 31-11 record. All games will be played at Thorne-Rider Stadium.
The other first-round match-ups are Gillette vs. Evanston, Cody vs. Cheyenne and Laramie vs. Powell.
If the Jets win, they face the winner of the Laramie and Powell match-up the following day.
Teams and fans from across the state will enter Sheridan this week, each with the goal to take home the title.