Looking for their first Legion baseball title in five years and first at the ‘AA’ level since 1986, the Laramie Rangers start play at the state tournament Sunday in Cheyenne.

For the third time in four years, Laramie will match-up against the Jackson Giants. The Rangers beat Jackson 14-10 at Sheridan in 2015, but lost to the Giants in Jackson, 21-14, in 2016. This time they’ll meet at Powers Field in Cheyenne Sunday at 4 p.m.

Laramie manager Brandon Ruckman said of the first-round draw, they’re very similar to us.

“They’ve had some good wins this year. Their top one through five or so players are pretty legit. I mean, they can hit the ball. They have a couple of good pitchers in the mix… It’s gonna be an evenly matched game. I imagine that whoever comes with a clean game will get the win in that one.”

The two teams played once very early in the season, April 28 in Casper, a 7-1 victory by Jackson. That was part of a rough start to the season for the Rangers.

Ruckman said, “It was early in the year. A lot of things have changed since then. We’ve gotten a lot better. I’m looking forward to just having a good state tournament.”

When it came to reflecting back on their only game against the Giants, Ruckman said he recalls it was one big inning for them.

“We had one inning where we kind of fell apart, and I think they took advantage of that, of our mistakes there. Other than that, I remember it being fairly close up until that point.”

He feels if they can play clean defensively, they’ll be right in it.

Veterans Reid Baty and Blake Moore spoke with KOWB’s David Settle from Cowboy Field about the first-round state tournament match-up.

Laramie enters state with a 30-25 overall record. After a 9-16 start, the Rangers have gone 21-9. That is since a game two victory over Idaho Falls June 12. They are 10-5 since July 3.

Ruckman attributed the turnaround to team play.

“Just stopped the individual approach to the game. Everybody was so worried about their personal stats, and how good they were doing. Then, they kind of embraced the team concept of trying to move runners and trying to do things at the plate to score runs, and celebrating little small victories within the team. I think that was like the biggest turnaround for us.”

He also referenced the coaching staff hammered home pitching strikes and not allowing walks, particularly zero-out walks.

Ruckman also believes his team can make some noise at the state tournament.

“This year’s been pretty interesting in terms of the amount of teams that have split this year, which we haven’t really seen in the past. You’ve had the Cheyenne’s and Gillette’s that have kind of rolled everybody… Just look the West (conference), where Jackson’s beaten Casper, Evanston’s beaten Jackson and Casper, I mean everybody’s kind of split… I think really anybody could win it this year. Whoever has a clean tournament is going to come away with a win.”

Ruckman is confident in his team’s chances.

“We have the strength to do it this year. We have the power hitters in the mix that we haven’t had in the past. We have, pretty much, three dominant starters that I feel could get us a win, if they have ‘on days.’ If we’re gonna win it, this is the year we’re gonna win it.”

The Rangers versus Jackson from Cheyenne’s Powers Field can be heard on KOWB (AM 1290). You can also listen online or take the game mobile with the KOWB app. David Settle will call the action with coverage starting at 3:45 p.m. Sunday, July 29.