It can be a challenge for any athlete not to get down after losing the first 10 games of the season, but this task can be especially hard for still maturing 13-14-year-olds.
“We let it get to us,” player Henry Switzer said.
But while Cody Legion C baseball team did bend, it did not break.
Jace Jarrett said it was the team’s first win at the Powell tournament, coming off a walk-off single, that set the stage for a different tone for the season.
“We started winning and winning and winning,” he said. “That’s when our motivation started going up.”
Now the team has flipped the script, fresh off a seven-game winning streak.
“They’re learning how to be in dogfights,” assistant coach Cam Wright said. “You got to see it in the long run. You can’t just play for all the runs.”
A 4-1 win over Lovell on July 9 was a microcosm of their season as a whole, giving nothing short of a full nine innings of effort.
After the teams traded runs in the first inning, Cody kept the score at 1-1 entering the bottom of the sixth, despite letting the Mustangs on base in the fourth and fifth innings.
In the sixth, the Cubs youngest player Ethan Perry stole home for the lead. Then in the eighth Perry scored on another passed ball, while a Wyatt Carlson RBI drove home Grady McCarten.
“We’re playing small ball,” Wright said. “Making sure we’re getting bunts down, hits and runs.”
But what was most apparent in the win was defense.
“Our defense was just spot on,” Wright said.
The team orchestrated two double plays in the game including a crucial strikeout and pick-off in the eighth. Getting even one double play was a feat the team had not been capable of at the start of the season.
“Our infielders did a really good job,” Jarrett said.
Pitching also played its part. Carlson threw 6 1/3 innings, holding the Mustangs to one run and striking out three.
“I felt like tonight was the best night,” Carlson said. “I came out here trying to be the best I could. It was really great having a good catcher behind the plate.”
His catcher, Jarrett, rolled his eyes at this comment. Jarrett then asked Carlson sarcastically if he were filling out his application to play for the Colorado Rockies. Carlson paused and responded.
“I guess I am,” he said.
Everyone on the team has tried their hand at pitching this season with varying degrees of success.
Carlson said he began the season as a starting pitcher but after a few rough outings was moved to a relief role in order to get his confidence back up.
“I started out the season OK, mid-season I got better at relief,” he said.
Almost every member of the team played in Little League the season before. Making the leap up to Legion ball is one that takes adjusting in numerous ways, physically, to the bigger field size, and also mentally, with a more-serious approach required. Even though the Cubs pulled out the win, Wright and coach Dalton Graven still had their team run sprints immediately after the game.
“We want everybody running on the field, we don’t want anybody walking,” Wright said. “We’re stepping up in the world and they know that. They know we’re pretty serious, but we’ve got to make sure we’re still smiling on the baseball field.”
It is clear the Cubs have bought in.
If a teammate gets a third out while at bat, it is one of their teammates that grabs their glove for them. When a player makes a good play, the bench makes sure they hear about it.
“It’s fun right now, but when we go to state it’s going to be even worse,” Carlson said sarcastically.
At the end of the day, Wright said it would be impossible for his players to be dedicated without a love for the game.
“When the game’s not fun anymore nobody is having fun,” Wright said. “Everybody doesn’t want to play anymore.”
Although the Cubs may not have the best record (13-22), the team has been playing so well as of late they will get the top seed in their quadrant going into the state tournament in Casper this week.
“We’re really good now,” Carlson said. “What’s made us laugh is we go from 0-10 to possibly No. 1 seed in state.”
Cody Legion C team roster
The Cody Legion C team includes Jacob Bash, Ty Peterson, Garrett Henry, Wyatt Carlson, Trey Schroeder, Eli Johnston, Henry Switzer, Grady McCarten, Zyler Gillespie, Jace Jarrett, Jacob Ball, Ethan Perry and Chase Foss.