WHEATLAND – The Torrington senior Legion baseball team went 1-2 at the East District Tournament in Wheatland over the weekend.
The one win was enough to qualify the Tigers for this weekend’s ‘A’ State Tournament in Cheyenne.
“That was the ultimate goal of the weekend,” Tiger manager Rob Mortimore said. “We knew going in, that first round game, even with a loss, we were in pretty good shape to be where we wanted to be and get to state.”
In game one, Torrington’s late-game comeback fell short in a 10-7 loss.
The Tigers trailed 9-0 after three innings but made things interesting in the closing innings.
“We came out flat Friday and didn’t play well at all,” Mortimore said.
In the fifth, Ryder Hackbarth, Caeden Riley and Matthew Hellus singled, and Hellus drove in Torrington’s first run.
The Tigers got a second run across in the sixth courtesy of a wild pitch, and in the seventh, Torrington exploded for five runs.
All five runs came with two out on the scoreboard. With the bases loaded, Bryce Hager brought in a run after being hit by a pitch. Ben Firminhac singled, and Hackbarth cleared the bases with a triple. Riley capped off the big inning with a single before Riverton managed to get the third out to secure the win.
Riley went 3-for-3 at the plate, while Jones added two hits. On the mound, Torrington pitched six pitchers, keeping them all under 30 pitches making them eligible to pitch again later in the tournament if needed.
The loss dropped the Tigers to a must-win game against the Northeast Conference’s top seed, Casper, after the Drillers fell to Douglas in the semifinal round.
“The guys responded on Saturday and put together one of the best games we’ve played all year. We executed a game plan and executed offensively,” Mortimore said. “We had our two horses on the mound – Caeden and Jackson – and they did what we needed them to do. Offensively, we moved the ball around and played small ball. We got timely hits.”
Torrington grabbed an early lead off a triple by Bryce Hager, scoring Jackson Jones, but the lead was short-lived as Casper answered with three runs of its own.
The score remained 3-1 until the top of the fourth inning when Riley led off with a double and came around to score on a single by Austin Short. A Hellus bunt and an infield single by Aidyn Saucedo put the Tigers back in front 4-3.
Torrington countered Casper’s counter with four runs in the top of the fifth.
Firminhac tied the game with his second bunt single of the game and ended up on third base following a throwing error. Two batters later, Short laid down a bunt of his own, scoring two more.
“That was huge. Outside of Ben, we had a couple guys who laid down bunts and get some guys over and get some runs in, but those two bunts by Ben, he can handle the bat really well,” Mortimore said. “Even with him in the four-hole, we have a guy there who can handle the bat and move runners over. Lucky for us, Casper had a hard time making plays on those bunts.”
The Tigers never trailed again for the remainder of the game, adding three more runs in the top of the sixth inning.
Saucedo went 3-for-4 at the plate, while Firminhac and Riley collected two hits apiece. Riley also picked up the win, throwing five innings, striking out seven.
The win punched their ticket to state and setup a showdown with the Cheyenne Hawks with a No. 3 seed on the line on Sunday morning.
When the final out was recorded, Torrington came up short 8-7.
After a scoreless first inning, a walk to Keith with the bases loaded and a sacrifice fly by Jones gave the Tigers an early 2-0 lead.
“We jumped out to an early lead, hitting well,” Mortimore said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t come up with those timely hits on Sunday.”
In the third, an RBI single by Short and a Cheyenne error pushed the Torrington lead to 4-0.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, they couldn’t push any more runs across in the frame, leaving the bases loaded in the third and fourth innings, and that’s when Cheyenne mounted its comeback.
The Hawks cut the deficit to 4-3 before a Hager sac fly made it 5-3 in the top of the fifth.
In the home half of the inning, Cheyenne plated five runs to take an 8-5 lead.
“We talked about it yesterday, if you look at the inning as a whole, we gave one hit but gave up five walks in the inning,” Mortimore said. “You can give up those singles that turn into a triple from time to time, but when you put guys on ahead it, that’s when it’s a big blow.”
After being retired in order in the sixth, Torrington made one last effort in the seventh.
With the bases loaded, an error drove in one and a hit batsman made it a one run game.
For the third time in the game, Torrington left the bases loaded to end the inning.
Short, Firminhac and Keith had two hits apiece in five plate appearances in the game. Hager was tagged with the loss, striking out four over four innings.
“I’m extremely proud of how the guys responded after Friday and got the job done. Getting to state is a true testament to the work they have put in. It’s a reward for them to play another week of baseball,” Mortimore said. “We told them, we get to state, anything can happen.”
The Tigers head to state as the No. 4 seed and will face the West District’s top seed, Cody, in the opening round in Cheyenne at 4 p.m. Saturday.
“They are good. They are disciplined. They only lost a couple kids from last year. It’ll be a true test for us. We are optimistic we can go out and get that first round game especially with how we’ve played the last two days, anything can happen. All the pressure is on Cody, not us.”