The Cats needed just one win on their two-game road swing to Gillette Tuesday night.
And one win they got.
Zack Slone went the distance for Douglas, tossing seven innings of seven-hit ball and giving up no earned runs in a 3-1 win over the Rustlers in the nightcap.
Douglas overtook Wheatland for first place overall in the A Northeast , clinching a first-round bye at the district tournament.
Douglas now sits at 23-19 overall and 5-3 in league play.
It wasn’t a must-win, and Slone treated it that way.
“I didn’t have much pressure going into the second game, I was very confident that my team would help me both in the field and at the plate,” Slone said. “Well, I don’t really know what was working for me, but I know that I had some great defense behind me and that gave me the confidence to do what I do.”
Cats’ skipper Zack Andrews said Slone cemented himself as a “go-to” guy with the postseason rapidly approaching.
“Slone was huge,” Andrews said. “He was money, he has been money, he just gets it done. He is so consistent and just goes out and battles.
“Stryker (Davies) and Slone are my 1A and 1B, anytime they are out there, we have a chance to win. They have proven that.”
Great defense hasn’t been the Cats’ calling card through the first month-plus of the season. Lately, the bats and pitching, along with defensive improvement, have led to a 6-2 record a week after winning the Miles City tournament in Montana.
Ryan Lebert went 2-2 at the plate, drove in a run and scored the tying run on a passed ball in the two-run sixth. Coming off a tough-luck loss on the mound in game one, Davies drove in the winning run Monday night.
Douglas managed only four hits in the win, but unlike the first game, a 3-2 loss, the Cats only left three on base. In the opener, Douglas banged out 14 hits and left 10 on.
Slone took care of the rest.
“I didn’t really think about going the distance, I just wanted to help my team win in any way that I can,” he said. “It feels really special being on the mound for the conference win.”
The Cats will travel to Casper to take on the Roughnecks tonight at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. before coming home to host the Bolln Tournament, beginning Thursday at 5 p.m. against either Torrington or Rawlins.
“It’s huge and it allows us to get a bye in the district tournament,” Andrews said of the win over Gillette. “Now we need one win to make it to State. When you have the staff we have, you like your chances. I am proud of them. They are just a good bunch of guys and they are starting to find their confidence.”