SHERIDAN — The Gillette Rustlers lost their first game 4-3 to Rock Springs in the Class B State Tournament, but their head coach believed that opening loss propelled the team forward the rest of the way.
“It really settled us down a little bit and I was able to paint a picture in front of them of what they had to do,” Gillette head coach Sam Stearns said.
The tournament had a double elimination format, so the Rustlers needed to win six games against five teams over the course of the next four days. They did just that to take home the state championship Sunday afternoon with a 9-0 victory over Evanston at Thorne-Rider Stadium.
Dalton Martin pitched a nearly flawless game on the mound for Gillette, striking out five and surrendering only two hits and two walks in the complete game shutout. The Rustlers scored at least one run in each of the first five innings, including three in the third inning, to give Martin a comfortable 6-0 lead. Isaiah Ciravolo led the way and went 3 for 3 with three RBIs.
The Rustlers took care of business Saturday against Evanston to force the tiebreaker Sunday afternoon. Gillette won 15-7 and scored in six of the seven innings, including six runs in the top of the second. The Rustlers had two bunt singles, reached based twice on errors and drew several walks to put a crooked number on the scoreboard.
Gillette had a strong offensive performance, tallying 14 hits and eight walks. Dallas Grubbs went 3 for 3 with two RBIs and two runs. Cole Swisher and Drew Douthit also had two hits, two runs and two RBIs each.
Evanston scored five runs of its own in the second inning but was limited after Jeric Igo came on in relief. Igo pitched the final six innings for Gillette and gave up just five hits and two earned runs.
“He took the ball in that situation when we needed a big lift and came in, threw strikes and got outs,” Stearns said. “He kind of settled the game down for us and allowed us to extend our lead.”
Evanston had five errors and used five pitchers in Saturday’s game. Jayden Schneider had the most success on the mound, allowing one run over two innings. Erik Greer and Jagger Mitchell each recorded two hits for the Trappers.
The championship matchup was made of the two teams that defeated the Sheridan Jets — both by one run — in the tournament. Evanston knocked off the Jets 5-4 Thursday night and Gillette ended Sheridan’s season with a 6-5 victory Friday afternoon. The Jets took down the Rustlers 9-7 in the district finals at Gillette the week prior to earn the state tournament’s top seed.
Stearns said the win Friday over Sheridan carried more weight.
“Any time you can beat your rival, and not only beat them, but beat them in the state tournament, it kind of has a little extra meaning for the players,” Stearns said. “It was nice to, in a sense, kind of return the favor a little bit.”
The narrow victory against the Jets seemed to propel Gillette forward. The Rustlers defeated Cody 18-1 Friday afternoon and knocked off Rock Springs 15-0 Saturday before comfortably beating Evanston twice to take home the title.