SHERIDAN — Sheridan gave itself every advantage it could ahead of the Class B State Tournament. Not only will the Jets play each game inside the friendly confines of Thorne-Rider Stadium, but as a result of its district title, Sheridan will enter the tourney with the No. 1 seed and quite a bit of momentum.
“Our guys are competing hard, and their confidence level is great,” Sheridan head coach Austin Cowen said. “Now, I think maybe a little bit of doubt is creeping into some other teams’ minds around the state. We are here, and they’re going to have to come through us.”
That level of confidence may not have existed without the success at the district tournament. The Jets traveled to Gillette fresh off three straight losses — albeit against three Class A teams — and not playing their best baseball.
A manhandling of Glenrock and a comfortable win over Cody in the first two rounds of the district tournament righted the ship and set the stage of a title bout against the hometown Rustlers. Sheridan kept the good times going, rallying for five runs in the sixth inning to steal the crown.
Now, the Jets will look to hold serve as the top seed on their home field.
“I’m excited to see how far we can go with this young team because we battled so well through adversity,” Carter Dubberly said. “When we were down in the championship game, we battled through and came back and that gave us great momentum going into the state tournament.
“I’m excited to see what we can do.”
Sheridan opens the state tournament Wednesday against Laramie — the south’s No. 4 seed. The Jets dismantled the Deputies 13-1 July 8 in the two teams’ only meeting this season in Gillette.
Wednesday’s opening round game is slated to begin at 6:30 p.m., the final game of the day.
Cowen believes the primetime slot is beneficial for the fact Sheridan won’t have to sweat through the heat of the day like most of its counterparts.
“If we do what we are trying to do — come take care of business night one and continue to win — then we’ll play the night games all the way through,” Cowen said. “We won’t have to be up early doing anything in the sun, for the most part. We’ll be playing once it starts to cool down a little bit.”
The Jets will also sleep in their own beds and play on a diamond where they know all the nooks and crannies and in front of a partisan crowd.
Depth stands as another area working in Sheridan’s favor. Cowen feels confident with both his lineup and his pitching staff, which are both clicking right now. The Jets scored 34 runs over the course of three games at the district tournament, and that was more than enough for a pitching staff that can go 10 deep.
“Pitching, that’s a huge strength for us,” Cowen said. “Whereas a lot of teams are limited to three or four guys that they truly trust, I feel I could throw nine to 10 guys that I truly believe will be able to battle and throw strikes and find ways to get outs, so that’s a huge positive for us.
“As far as our lineup, hitting wise, it’s kind of rare at this age, but right now it doesn’t seem to me like any one of our guys is an easy out, one through nine. They’re making the opposing pitcher work, and it’s tough for any pitcher facing our lineup.”
The Jets hope all of those components remain sharp starting Wednesday as Sheridan looks to to translate its district-tournament success into state-tournament success.