A new season of Laramie Rangers baseball begins Monday with a doubleheader against the Wheatland Lobos.

The 2020 season opener was originally scheduled for Cowboy Field in Laramie, but because of a few different reasons, it was moved to Wheatland. The Rangers won’t make their home debut until June 16.

Laramie is led by second-year manager Aaron Lozano. The Rangers went 15-40 last season. It was considered a rebuilding year after Laramie had finished third at the 2018 Wyoming ‘AA’ State Tournament. The Rangers advanced to day four of last year’s state tournament (2-2) and finished as one of the top four teams.

Coronavirus concerns nearly led to Laramie not being able to field a team this year, but the Laramie Legion Baseball Board of Directors voted on May 13 to approve just one ‘AA’ team for the 2020 season.

Lozano admits he’s got a group of guys that are just happy to be playing baseball again.

“We’ve had some of the restrictions that we’ve been following at practice, and we’ve had pretty minimal complaining about that, and just guys who are willing to do what it takes to make baseball happen. I think I’ve got, right now, a bunch of guys who are just really excited to hit the field.”

Lozano and the Rangers started practicing on May 18 at Washington Park. They finally got on a baseball diamond, at Cowboy Field, last Tuesday, May 26.

Lozano said being on an actual field was twice as productive as being off it.

“It’s easier for me as a coach to visualize what I’m trying to accomplish. I think it’s easier for the players to visualize it, as well… We’ve been pretty happy to be back out on the field.”

Eight players return from last season’s varsity roster. The Rangers will be led by three All-State performers. Caleb Eaton has received that accolade for the last two years. After he was second-team in 2018, Eaton received First-Team All-State in 2019. Also back are Second-Team All-State honorees Tyler Oppie and Aidan Morris.

Lozano feels this is an even team.

“I think we’ve got a good balance of strengths, as far as speed and power. We’ve got a guy like Tyler Oppie (as a pitcher), who’s going to be hitting, hopefully, close to the 90s this year on the radar gun. Then, we’ve got Darnale Bangert that’s going to come at you with a 52-mile an hour curveball. I think we’re really balanced and that’s huge for us, as far as a strength.”

What are the concerns? Lozano knows they’ve got to improve their defense.

“We’re a little raw on the infield. Last year, we saw a team that committed a lot of errors, and so that’s something we’re trying to cut down on this year is those infield errors. I think we have a strong outfield, so hopefully, we can get the infielders tuned up and ready to go and cut down on some of those errors.”

Laramie begins with the twin bill at Wheatland. The games are scheduled for 5 and 7 p.m. from Lobos Field.

Lozano knows they’ll receive a tough challenge from Wheatland.

“I told the team at practice that I grew up in Torrington, and one of the biggest thrills being in Torrington was to come to Laramie or Cheyenne or Casper and to beat those guys. I feel like Wheatland’s a team that’s going to have a similar mindset.”

Lozano believes his squad can’t afford to overlook the Lobos. He knows they’ve already played which gives them an advantage over Laramie.

“We expect them to be prepared and ready to play. I think it’ll be a pretty fun matchup.”

KOWB (AM 1290) will broadcast both those games live starting at 4:45 p.m. David Settle will call the action. You can listen to the doubleheader anywhere with the KOWB apponline or on a smart speaker.

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