Zack Virtue

First baseman Zack Virtue slides in safely, despite contact, for the run against Rawlins.

At this point in the season, the Douglas Cats need every win they can get. The Legion B State tournament is less than a month away and the team will need to win almost every game in conference play to guarantee themselves a spot in Sheridan.

The first step in that quest was the June 25 doubleheader with Rawlins. The Cats pulled off the sweep, winning the two games by scores of 8-4 and 14-2, respectively.

For the first game of the day, Douglas had Cameryn Spence on the mound and Jackson Hughes as his battery mate. After scoring a quick run in the first inning, the Cats would not relinquish their lead. It took until the second inning for the team to break out offensively, but break out they did.

With the bases loaded and one out, it took a single from Ace Cathcart, double from Luke Skeen, sacrifice fly from Marcus Mongiello and a single from Hughes to give the Cats a 6-0 lead.

Things started to get difficult in the third inning, not because of the opposing dugout, but the sky above them. Rain started to trickle down, changing at a moment’s notice from a barely perceptible drizzle to a more steady tangible flow.

The Cats were not able to pick up another run until the fourth inning when a single from Hughes, combined with a throwing error, allowed Skeen to score.

It was the top of the fifth inning before Rawlins was able to get themselves on the board, scoring one run on a wild pitch. Douglas squandered one final scoring opportunity in the fifth inning to bury their opponents, but the Cats maintained a significant lead.

“I think we really came together, we had solid defense, we could throw the ball and pound the strike zone,” Bradyn Matthews said.

Spence did not come out of the dugout for the rest of the game, giving way to Alex Virtue on the mound. In the final inning, Rawlins mounted their last-ditch comeback attempt.

Between fielding errors by the Cats and batted balls landing just out of reach, the Colonels were able to get runners on the corners with two outs. With the score 8-3, it would be their last hope.

The game ended after a bloop single between second base and center field gave the Douglas defenders just enough time to throw out the trailing runner at third base. Just before the rain could worsen, if only for a few minutes, the Cats pulled off the 8-4 victory.

After the break, the Cats went with Hayden Renner on the mound and Hughes still behind the plate. Hughes caught both full games against Rawlins.

“I thought I could’ve done better. I needed to block a little, tried to pick a lot. I just have to get my body in front of the ball,” he said.

With a runner at third base in the opening frame and one out, Renner struck out a pair of Colonels to get out of the inning unscathed. The same formula, an inning-ending strikeout with a runner on third base, worked for Renner in the second and third innings, as well.

By the time the second game started, the rain was no longer an issue. It had come and passed with little impact — the wind was a different story. Gusts persisted in the first inning of the game kicking dirt into players faces across the infield.

Ignoring the gusts of wind, Hughes was able to knock in the first run of game two across with a single, scoring Skeen. It wasn’t until the second inning, for the second time of the day, that the Cats were able to break through offensively and pile on runs.

Hits from Cathcart, Skeen, Mongiello and Hughes made the score 6-0. The Cats added to their lead in the next inning after a bases loaded single from Mongiello scored just one run when Alex Witbrod tripped rounding third base before making it back safely.

Witbrod’s slip caused a chain reaction — every runner was caught between bases by the time the ball was back in the infield. After working their way through two separate pickles, everybody was able to return safely to their bases.

The fourth inning was Rawlins’ best chance to get something against Douglas. They had the bases loaded with nobody out but managed to scrape only one run across home.

After a series of defensive miscues in the bottom of the fourth, Douglas had the bases loaded with a lopsided 10-1 advantage and Mongiello at the plate. He hammered the Colonel’s pitch into the outfield gap, scoring all three runners and sliding in safely for a triple.

“It’s great when you feel it off the bat. You can really tell if you hit it hard or not and when you see it fall in the gap, it’s not much better than that,” Mongiello said.

A double from Hughes drove in Mongiello and the Cats were at 14-1 going into the fifth. All the Cats had to do was maintain a 12-run lead and the game would be over then and there.

After Rawlins eked out a run on a wild pitch, head coach Travis Mortimore went to his bullpen and brought in Colton Divan.

He got the final two outs to close the door on the inning and end Rawlins’ trip early. While they easily handled the Colonels’ pitching, not all the players were satisfied with the result.

“As far as offense and hitting, I feel we could’ve done better. We could be more aggressive at the plate and get some more runs,” Matthews said. “Against that sort of team, we should be putting up 20 runs honestly.”

The Cats will hit the road for the next two weeks, including a tournament in Laramie on July 5. Their next home game will be on July 11 against Sheridan.

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