By: Shawn O’Brate

KLAMATH FALLS, OR – After a spectacular regular season and state championship tournament the Lander Lobos season came to a disappointing end on Saturday in the Northwest Regionals Tournament in Oregon.

The Wyoming Senior Babe Ruth State Champions went into Klamath Falls with high hopes, high expectations and exceptional talent across the board but it would not be enough to bring back the trophy from the Beaver State. 

Both of the Lobos’ first two games were recapped in the previous edition of Fremont County Sports, both games being losses by 10 or more points, but the final two games of the weekend took place during the weekend.

“We pulled a tough draw the first two games,” coach Shannon Stephenson said about Kelso and Klamath Falls, “our boys played hard, it just didn’t go our way.”

On Friday the Lobos were heading into their third game with a full head of steam, especially after the way the two previous games had not gone their way. 

They took the field against the Calgary Blues 18U team out of Alberta, Canada and, despite their best bats of the tournament, they could not find themselves without a deficit to face. The Blues team would start off 8–0 but the Lobos would find the strike zone more and more regularly throughout the game on both sides of the batter’s box.

The Lobos had a seven-run inning in the second to bring the Blues’ lead to only one (8–7), but the Calgary team would not stop as their tough-as-nails nature showed itself with their hot bats. They would add on a three-run, a five-run, and a seven-run inning against the Lobos throughout the next four innings and would end the game with a 24–10 victory over the Wyoming State Champs.

In that game the Lobos would rotate through four pitchers, all coming off a strong regular season, and they would combine for 14 strikes and only eight walks, but whenever the Blues would get going with their bats it was almost impossible to put a stop to it. And even though the Calgary team could only muster up six strikeouts against the Lobos, and put even more players on base from walks (9), the Lobos would simply not have enough to get out of the hole they started in.

After that loss the Lobos went back to the hotel to recuperate and regain whatever they could for their next game, the one that would determine if they go any further in the tough tournament. 

That game would be against the Rock Springs Spartans, a team representing the ‘National’ side of the Pacific Northwest Babe Ruth Regionals tournament while the Lobos represented the ‘American’ side.

The two teams battled like they did all season against one another, but only one could come out on top to continue in Klamath Falls.

That matchup would start off neck-and-neck with both teams quickly getting shut out of the early innings, whether it be through strikeouts or through ground balls and fly balls, but it would really get going in the third inning when both teams would finally reach the scoreboard.

Lobos’ pitcher Kephas Olsson had a great game up until the fourth inning when he would be relieved by Conor Carey. Olsson had eight strikeouts in those three innings and only allowed one run, but that inning would be prefaced by Lander scoring three runs. Two of those runs would be thanks to an inside-the-park homerun off the bat of Carey.

After that inning, when Rock Springs would tack on six runs to go on top 7–4, the Lobos had their ending handed to them by the bats of Rock Springs. Carey would do a good job relief pitching, throwing two strikeouts and only allowing two earned runs, but the balls would simply not fall the right way for the Lobos to keep themselves in the game.

Quickly, the Spartans would add one more run, then two more, and suddenly the score would become 10–5 before the seventh and final inning, where it would stand until the final horn blew.

“These young men showed heart, resiliency, and pride,” head coach Dave Rees said about his team, “I have coached many teams in the past but this team is clearly the best one I have ever been associated with.”

So the Wyoming State Champions in the Senior Babe Ruth baseball program fell in the Pacific Northwest Regionals, but that does not mean that the coaches and kids weren’t extremely proud of themselves for making it that far for the second time in three years.

“I cannot say enough about this team and will miss the players who are leaving,” coach Stephenson said after the weekend, “This was one of the funnest seasons I have ever been a part of…in the end our boys are winners no matter what!”

Now the focus is on next season, one that will be without starters like Keegan Stephenson, Paxton Rees, and Jace LeClair. Defending the title with a fresh team and a couple experienced players returning isn’t impossible but it “will be no easy task” as coach Stephenson explained after the weekend. 

Until then there are plenty of reasons to celebrate for the Lobos, including a strong showing against some of the toughest competition in the region. 

Congratulations to the Lander Lobos on such an amazing season filled with so much success!