Batter up!

By: 
Sonja Karp

Photo by Alexis Barker/NLJ

Sonja Karp

NLJ Sports Reporter

 

The weather may feel like it’s still early spring, but the Boys of Summer are already a few weeks into the baseball season. Alex Schaneman has taken the helm as head coach of the Newcastle Longhorns Senior Babe Ruth squad this year, and is looking forward to a successful season despite some early season adversity.

“We’ve only played six games so far because nine of them have been cancelled due to weather,” he sighed. “We’ve also had a lot of practices cancelled so we’re a little behind where we should be given we’ve been practicing since April.”

Injuries have also hit the Longhorns sidelining several key players. Cade Ostenson has yet to begin playing after suffering a hamstring tear at the end of track season, Cam Williams injured his elbow in the season opener, Gavin Roady broke his right hand after a fall in practice, and Isaac Prell tore his UCL (Ulnar Collateral Ligament). Williams was able to return last weekend and Schaneman is hoping that Ostenson will get to make an appearance. However, Roady and Prell are not expected to make a comeback before the season ends.

“Isaac only got to play one inning before he got shut down, so losing our starting catcher wasn’t a great way to start,” Schaneman sighed. “Cam is my ultimate utility guy who can play pretty much any position, and last weekend was the first time he was able to take the field since the opening weekend.”

Despite the unexpected hardships, the Longhorns have started strong sitting with a 4-2 record. As of this week, there are 17 young men suiting up for Newcastle and the squad boasts a long, solid pitching roster with seven starters and four relief guys. The starters are Peyton Tystad, Zach Purviance, Josh Stevens (Hulett), Ostenson, Sawyer Roberson, Grant Darrow (Edgemont) and Cam Williams. Relief pitchers include Nolan Turner (Upton), Dylan Talley, Skylar Jenkins and Dayton Williams.

In the first three games of the season, Newcastle defeated the Gillette JV team 4-2, lost to Gillette’s varsity squad and then got the better of Belle Fourche’s junior Legion team 22-7. Last weekend in their first tournament in Gillette, the squad opened up pool play with a 14-2 win over the Casper Badgers. They followed that up with a disappointing 2-17 loss to Lander, but came back to beat Cheyenne 7-2 in bracket play on Sunday.

Purviance took the mound for the Longhorns in the opening contest against Casper on Saturday.

“He threw pretty well,” Schaneman nodded. “He had a couple of control issues early on, but for the most part they didn’t hit them”

Through three innings of play, the two squads were neck-and-neck scoring two runs each. However, the Longhorns put the Badgers away
in the top of the fourth by scoring
12 runs.

“That was a great inning for us and it put the game out of reach,” Schaneman smiled. “The way Zach was throwing at that point was great and they weren’t hitting them at all so I felt pretty confident we had the game in the bag.”

As it turned out, the fourth inning was the last one played as the
contest had exceeded the time limit at that point.

Roberson got the call to pitch the second game of the day against Lander, and it appeared as though the squad picked up right where it left off, scoring two quick runs in the top of the first inning. Tystad and Roberson both had base hits, and then Luke Harris hit a ground ball into the infield which wasn’t a base hit, but Lander overthrew first base allowing Tystad and Roberson to get across home plate.

Roberson then threw nine pitches in the bottom of the first to close it out 2-0 in Newcastle’s favor. However, that is when the wheels came off
the bus.

“We started walking some people, we had five errors, and things got out of hand,” Schaneman sighed. “We had overthrows, missed grounders, we weren’t getting people out, we were having mental lapses and it was just a bad inning for us.”

Lander used those errors by Newcastle to score eight runs in the bottom of the second to take an 8-2 lead. At that point, Schaneman pulled Roberson to save his arm and to have his presence in left field.

“Sawyer tends to have problems with his arm when he throws too much, so I moved him to the outfield and put in Josh Stevens,” Schaneman explained. “They ended up scoring more runs off of him, but he didn’t throw poorly. They just hit the ball really well.”

Despite boasting a plethora of pitchers, last weekend the team was short several players so Schaneman opted to save what remained of his pitching crew for Sunday. The rules limit the number of pitches each player may throw. After 45 throws, the player must sit out a day before he can resume, and after 105 pitches he is done for the duration.

“In a two-day tournament, those restrictions really limit us because if you throw 45 on the first day, you are done,” Schaneman began. “We had to send in Dylan [Talley] to get an out for us, and though he was pretty nervous he threw to one kid and got him to ground out. I was really impressed with him because that was his first time pitching since little league.”

In the Longhorns’ final game against Cheyenne on Sunday, Tystad was up on the hill and would remain there for the duration.

“They had three hits on him over the course of five innings, and he struck out 8-10 batters. They were not hitting the ball well,” Schaneman began. “Peyton is Mr. Consistency for us and does a good job. He has three pitches he can throw for strikes which makes him a handful for batters.”

While Tystad held Cheyenne at bay, the Longhorns did their job at-bat to finish the weekend with a win.

This week, the squad will travel to Sturgis on Thursday to play a seven-inning game, and on Saturday and Sunday they will host a six-team tournament.

“Thursday will be a tough game,” Schaneman predicted. “Sturgis is a pretty good team and we will be short-handed again, but we will be ready to go.”

Two Gillette teams, Casper, Buffalo, Belle Fourche and Newcastle will be competing over the weekend with the first contest starting at 8 on Saturday. Newcastle plays at 10 and 6 on Saturday in pool play with Sunday’s game time to be determined based on seeding.

Bracket play for the single-elimination format begins on Sunday at 8 with the championship game scheduled for 5. Schaneman feels confident that the Longhorns have a viable shot at being seeded well, and expects to see either Buffalo or the Gillette varsity team early on.

“From there, it will just depend on how things go, but our ultimate goal is to see Gillette again and get a little revenge for earlier this season,” Schaneman grinned. “We lost to them so we have a score to settle there.”

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