DOUGLAS – The Torrington Tigers finished the season strong with a third-place finish at the Wyoming ‘A’ State Legion Baseball Tournament in Douglas on Friday afternoon.
Facing elimination for the second straight day in the double-elimination format tournament, the Tigers dug deep to defeat conference-foe Gillette 4-1 on Thursday afternoon.
After two scoreless innings, the Tigers broke the tie in the third with an RBI double from starting pitcher Sam Firminhac.
“Sam had just a great game when we needed to have one in another must-win situation,” coach Kyle Nighswonger said.
Torrington added another run in the top of the fourth on a sacrifice fly from Caeden Riley.
Through the first three innings, Gillette managed to get runners on base, but never threatened until the fourth.
A bases loaded walk plated the Rustlers first run of the game.
The score remained 2-1 until Gage Correa singled, driving in Torrington’s third run of the game in the top of the sixth inning.
The Rustlers, once again, threatened in the bottom of the sixth, with relief pitcher Nick Sherbeyn on the mound. With the bases loaded, Gillette flied out to center field and an assist from Firminhac, the center fielder, who doubled up the Rustlers at home plate to get out of the inning.
“We pull him out with bases loaded and no outs, and the next you know, he gets the flyout and an assist throwing a kid out at home,” Nighswonger said. “It was such a huge momentum swing. It pretty much cut them down and took out any hope.”
The Tigers added an assurance run in the seventh courtesy of a Gillette error to push the lead to three as Torrington held on to play another day.
“It was another great team win. We made plays when we had to have them. We got hits. We got runners across when we had to have it,” Nighswonger said. “It was just an outstanding game and a heck of one to be a part of.”
The Firminhac brothers – Sam and Ben – tallied four of the Tigers six hits with two apiece in the win. Sam Firminhac also picked up the win, striking out four with no earned runs given up over five innings of work. Sherbeyn picked up the save, working the final two innings.
The win advanced the Tigers to the semifinal round of the playoffs against the Cheyenne Hawks, hoping to carry over that momentum into Friday’s game.
The Tigers grabbed an early 1-0 lead, but it was short-lived.
Three Torrington errors aided a five-run second inning for the Hawks. Torrington had a total of eight errors in the loss.
“We picked a bad day to have a bad day,” Nighswonger said. “It was probably one of our worst defensive days we’ve had since the first few weeks of the season. When you put up eight errors in a game, there is no way we shouldn’t be in it.”
However, the Tigers found a way to be in it until the final out.
Torrington added a run a piece in the second, third, sixth and seventh innings, leaving a pair on base in the final inning.
“It’s a big credit to the boys that they were still fighting going down to the seventh inning,” Nighswonger said. “There were only two innings where we didn’t put up a run in that game. If we weren’t giving up cheap outs and extra outs every inning, we were right in the heart of the game.”
Sherbeyn led the team at the plate with a 2-for-3 day, while Sam Firminhac added two hits.
Jones went the distance for the Tigers, surrendering only three earned runs in the loss.
“Jackson threw a great game. We couldn’t ask for much more,” Nighswonger said. “He threw the ball well. He located pitches. We just didn’t have a great day defensively behind him, and it hurt us.”
Despite the disappointment of coming up short of the ultimate goal of reaching the championship game, Nighswonger was pleased at the way team finished the season on a positive note.
“Disappointing? Yes, but to be one of the final three standing at the state tournament probably isn’t where some people thought we would be,” he said. “We got a lot better as a baseball team and a lot better as young men and individuals.”
Following the game, Torrington was awarded with the tournament’s sportsmanship award, while Cheyenne went on to claim the state title with a 5-4 win over Douglas.
The Tigers finished the season with a 12-20 record and only loses Tristen Kingsley from this season’s roster.
“That’s going to be big for the team,” Nighswonger said. “Tristen is a great player and it’s going to hurt that he isn’t going to be back next year, but we have a really great group of guys coming back next year. We’ll come out and be competitive when it comes down to it.”