by nathan oster
What a finish for the South Big Horn Bandits.
The team of 9- and 10-year-olds from the Greybull and Basin area capped their season by winning a district Little League tournament in Lovell last week.
The Bandits beat the Lovell Tigers 14-5 in the semis, then outlasted the Lovell Red Sox 15-12 in a slugfest the following night to earn the title.
Coby Henderson got the win against the Tigers, pitching most of the game before giving way to Carlos Rodriguez and Isaac Gaytan, who slammed the door.
The Tigers had beaten the Bandits earlier in the season.
It was a much different story in the rematch.
“We played a nice game that night,” said Ken Wright, the team’s manager.
The slugfest with the Lovell Red Sox swung on several key plays.
Rodriguez handled the pitching chores, but Wright credited Isaac Gaytan and Cale Wright for stepping in behind the dish with regular catcher Jake Schlattmann unable to play due to another commitment.
Rodriguez was credited with a pair of inside-the-park home runs.
The Bandits also benefited from a number of walks, Wright said.
“We played great defense, too,” he added. “The kids started to show some of the stuff that we’ve been working on all season.
“From that perspective, this tournament really capped off a nice season for us. Obviously, from a participation standpoint, I thought we had a good year. But we also played more games than any season since I’ve been here.”
Wright said he believes his team played 18 games — “and that was our goal, in that 18 to 20 game range every summer. And to go out by winning a championship … I don’t know that any of us envisioned that happening. Just a great ending for the kids.”
Several members of the Bandit team are trying out for an all-star team that will represent the county and play under the banner of the North Big Horn Little League in official tournament competition.
Those teams will take the field for their district tournaments starting around the weekend of July 15. If they take first or second, they will advance to state the following weekend.