SBHLL teams conclude season at Lovell tourney

Nathan Oster

South Big Horn County Little League teams wrapped up the season last weekend at a tournament in Lovell. The majors and minors teams went a combined 0-7, but managers of both clubs found plenty of silver linings.

"We learned so much at this tournament," said Bridget Patterson, who coached the Big Horn Federal majors team along with Jacob Paris.  "It wasn't really reflected on the scoreboard, but it was a nice ending, seeing the way everyone came together."

Big Horn Fed went 7-3 in the regular season, knocking off every opponent it faced except the three Lovell teams.  The top players from those three teams played on North Big Horn's all-star team, which was Friday morning's opponent for South Big Horn.

It did not go well for the visitors, who lost 14-2.

"They started out strong and threw some really good pitchers at us," said Patterson.

Game two was also a struggle.  Kellen Winters, an import from Otto, homered in the first for Big Horn Federal, but that wasn't nearly enough against a strong team of Lander all-stars.  The final was 30-2.

With an 0-2 record in pool play, Big Horn Fed entered the tournament as a No. 5 seed but quickly bowed out, losing 6-3 to Worland.   Patterson said it was competitive right down to the end.  Big Horn Fed had the bases loaded when the final out was recorded.

Quin Coyne, the only member of the team who will age out of majors next season, got the start on the mound.  Brendyn DeShazer eventually relieved him.  Patterson cited as highlights for this game a pair of nice catches by Winters, the baserunning of Mattix Myers and the hitting of William Fink and Kayson Herebia.

"If we'd have had one more inning, I think we would have come back to beat Worland," said Patterson. "That's kind of how our season went.  Our boys were pretty good at keep morale up when times got tough. They never, ever gave up.

With the exception of losing Coyne, everyone else will be eligible to return next year.

"I believe we built a strong bond and foundation, based on good communication between the coaches and kids," said Patterson.

With the three losses, the majors finished 7-6.


South Big Horn Little League's entry in the minors tournament featured the top 13 players from the AW Hunt Construction, Pathfinder Federal Credit Union and Otto Rattlers regular season clubs.

The roster included included Hakken Craft, Jesse Craft, Conner DeShazer, Jace Ferrell, Quaide Houchin, Kru Keisel, Wyatt Kunkel, Kingston Schedler, Daniel Stamstad, Norah Thur, Jonathan Williams, Ashtun Winkler and Ryan Whisenant.

The team dropped all three of its pool play games, losing to North Big Horn 16-1, Lander 21-0 and Cody. 

Jesse Craft struck out six and scored the team's only run in the loss to North Big Horn.

The highlight of the Lander game was the pitching of Houchin, who fanned six batters.

In the loss to Cody, Wyatt Kunkel struck out six before giving way to DeShazer.

Even though it resulted in only a single run which was scored by Kunkel, the team's bats perked up against Cody, with Stamstad banging out two and Kru Keisel smacking a line drive to right for a standup double. 

Catcher Jonathan Williams was credited with a "super-man dive into home plate to tag the runner out."

South Big Horn dropped its final game of the tournament, losing to Lovell 20-2.

Keisel, Houchin, Hakken Craft and Thur were credited with base hits, with Keisel and Houchin eventually coming around to score.  Ashtun Winkler and Keisel were credited with web gems -- Winkler for snaring a fly ball ticketed for center, Keisel for handling a screaming line drive at short.

While it wasn't the outcome they sought, the young ballers enjoyed the experience, worked hard and well together, according to their coaches.  Scorching hot temps had them spraying water on each other, filling hats with ice from the coolers and at one point wiping out the concession stand's supply of popsicles. They also enjoyed the camp between games with two shade tents loaned to the team from Greybull Elementary School. 

"Our kids played in their first tournament this weekend. It was a great experience for them. We got to see the level of play we can expect next season. The kids worked hard and didn’t quit. It was an honor to coach these kids," said Coach Chris Dalin.

Coach J.D. Kunkel added, " I'm proud of these kids, they are the ones that put in the hard work. I'm thankful for the parents and the league for the opportunity for these kids to play baseball. Teaching these kids skills is the ultimate reward. I'm glad that Greybull is becoming a presence at the Lovell Tournament again and we hope to gain more public support for the future players."

Joining Dalin and Kunkel in the dugout were fellow coaches Jake Craft, Matt Stamstad, Paul Thur and Will Houchin.