Aug 4, 2016 - By Scott Akanewich, Sports EditorA group of veterans led Riverton through a tough regional tournament.
Riverton's three-time defending Babe Ruth state champions once again competed at the Pacific Northwest Regional Tournament this summer in Camas, Washington, and although the club went 1-3, including a final pool-play win against Idaho, valuable experience was gained.
"Seeing the boys play at that level was great," said manager Jason Muehler, who led the squad with coaches Jamie Frazier and Jeremy Martinez. "I think we proved once again we can compete."
According to Muehler, a core group of veterans was the catalyst for competing all during the event, notably Jaren Draper, Cody Frazier, Jereko Martinez and Dillon Fabricus, among others.
"Jaren's pitching at regionals was the best I've seen from him," said Muehler. "He was certainly locked in and did very well."
It wasn't only on the mound where Draper impressed, but also at the plate and in the outfield.
"Jaren threw two runners out at the plate from center field," said Muehler. "Even though he can play on the infield, he has no ego issues with being out there. In fact, he told me he loves playing center and in my opinion is the best center fielder in the entire state of Wyoming."
Another spark plug was Cody Frazier, who manned the hot corner at third base for the Rockies during the regular season and was never short on intensity, said Muehler.
"Cody's one of the guys we never have to worry about being ready to play," he said. "In fact, it's funny to have to worry about a player being too emotional, but we had to talk him off the ledge a few times.
"Before his first at-bat in the Idaho game, I just asked him when the last time he had fun at the plate was," he said. "He kind of just looked around. I told him to go up there and relax - and what do you know, he ripped a double, then the next time up a triple."
Others stepping up
Certainly, there were others who performed admirably under pressure, not the least of which was Peyton Rees, who played for Muehler's league-champion Red Sox squad during the regular season.
"Peyton hit the ball solidly all season for us," he said. "He simply continued that at state and regionals."
Martinez and Fabricus were critical contributors to not only the Red Sox, but also the all-stars, along with the Tigers' Vincent Brown, said Muehler.
"Jereko pitched great and did well wherever we put him and Dillon was sick for most of regionals, but battled through it and provided leadership for us," he said. "Also, Vincent came in to pitch in one of our games and got us out of a bases-loaded situation."
End of the day
Following the 15-hour journey back to Riverton, Muehler's players still have a few weeks left to enjoy the rest of their summer before school begins.
"We're all recouping a bit right now," said Muehler. "For them, their summer was nothing but baseball, but now they can just be kids for a while and go fishing or whatever before the fall sports season begins."
Muehler said he's wistful about the season coming to an end when it did.
"It's actually the best time of the year right now to be playing baseball with it being cooler at night and all," he said. "Some of the guys are talking about possibly getting together together and playing some fall ball."
With the conclusion of the campaign, Muehler knows his club simply needs a bit more seasoning before heading off to a big event like regionals.
"I know we can compete -- it just comes down to fundamentals," said Muehler. "I think if we can play more games together leading up, we can do even better."
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