GILLETTE – The Archie Hay Post 24 American Legion baseball team’s season came to an end Saturday after the Sand Puppies fell to the Jackson Giants 14-1 at the AA state tournament in Gillette.
Saturday’s game against the Giants was the Sand Puppies’ second-straight loss of the tournament, sending Rock Springs back home for the rest of the year.
The Sand Puppies opened up tournament play Friday against the hometown Gillette Roughriders. After taking a one-run lead in the third inning, Gillette rallied with two runs in the final two innings, sending the Sand Puppies into the elimination bracket.
GILLETTE 2, ROCK SPRINGS 1
It wasn’t until the top of the third inning that Rock Springs put the first point on the board. With two outs and runner on third base, Drew Grossnickle lined out a hard ground ball single. This allowed Gunner Hamblin to race home and give the Sand Puppies their only run of the day.
In the bottom of the inning and with Gillette looking to bite back, Rock Springs did a great job keeping the Roughriders from scoring.
From the mound, Ryan Powers gave up only one single before forcing an infield fly to D’Andre Ricks at first base. The final two outs came two soon after Powers forced a line out to Jayce Coughlin, followed by a fly out to Wyatt Martinez in center field.
In the bottom of the fourth, Gillette players were at the plate and looking to tie things back up. Fortunately, Rock Springs had other plans.
Instead of allowing the Roughriders time to bounce back, Powers forced two quick strikeouts to keep Gillette at bay. He then forced the final out after Gillette’s batter lined one back out to Martinez in center field.
Still holding onto a one-run lead, Rock Springs went into the top of the fifth inning looking to build on its lead. Unfortunately, the Sand Puppies couldn’t get the bats going. After only four pitches, Caden Anderson got caught looking for strike three. Two batters later, following a ground out by Shawn Murphy, Hamblin was caught looking for out No. three.
With only two and a half innings remaining, Gillette’s’ hope of a comeback was drawing shorter. Not only that, but with Powers still on the mound, the Roughriders had a difficult time finding any offense.
Powers forced two-straight ground outs, followed by a strikeout to send his team back on offense for the start of the sixth inning.
Rock Springs, however, was unable to get much offense going again. After only two at-bats, Grossnickle and Coughlin struck out swinging, followed by a ground out by Stevenson.
Rock Springs looked to put the game away the top of the seventh, but the Roughriders never stopped fighting. The only player to reach base was Martinez, who hit a ground ball single.
One batter later, Bobby Sains struck out swinging for the first out. Ricks lined out a hard ground ball to the Roughriders third baseman, which turned into a double play by the defense.
In the bottom of the inning, the Rock Springs defense knew it needed only three more outs to send Gillette packing.
Powers forced the Roughriders first batter to fly out to left field where Sains was there to for the first out. What looked like another quick inning for the Sand Puppies eventually turned sideways.
Three batters later, with only one out and a runner on first base, Powers gave up a single, allowing the runner to advance home and tie the game at 1-1.
With an extra inning now tacked on, Rock Springs went into the eighth inning looking to retake the lead. However, Gillette’s defense had other plans. After only four at-bats, the Roughriders held the Sand Puppies scoreless.
A new pitcher in the lineup, Parker Ross, replaced Powers late in the seventh inning. He didn’t get the start he was hoping for as Ross walked his first batter and the struggles continued.
Two batters later, Parker walked his third batter to load the bases with only one out. One batter later, Gillette completed its comeback after a walk-off single to win the game.