Losses are never easy to swallow, especially when they begin to stack up.
So when the Post 43 Giants went 1-3 last week at the Teton Classic American Legion baseball tournament in town, there was admittedly some frustration as Jackson suffered untimely errors when wins slipped away.
But even though manager Jason Huggins would have liked to see his side streaking as the final home tournament of the season came to a close, he said there’s much to build on. The teams in town last week for the four-day stretch of baseball were some of the toughest Jackson will see all year, and getting frustrating losses out of the way just as the team dips into conference play is how the Giants will hope to frame it.
“Overall I would say it was a learning experience for us,” Huggins said. “Baseball is a grind. We’re going to grind through this time of the year.”
Even though the Giants were dealt three losses, only one of those games was a total wash for Jackson. That came Friday night, when familiar foe Idaho Falls poured it on in a 12-3 game in which the Giants were often frustrated behind the plate and in the field.
Jackson opened play against Excelsior, Minnesota, a team that entered the week unbeaten. The Giants fell 8-0, though starting pitcher Anthony Bleggi had Jackson down just 4-0 heading into the sixth inning.
The Giants followed that with a 2-1 win over Evanston. Aaron Moya notched the victory in that game, pitching 6 1/3 innings. Matt Ellingson closed for the save.
After the loss to Idaho Falls on Friday, Jackson returned Saturday to take on Gillette, a familiar rival that gave the Excelsior team its first loss of the season during the tournament.
The Giants entered the seventh inning tied at four but let across five runs in the top of the seventh to drop to 26-15-2 on the season.
Errors were an issue all week, with Jackson making four in the loss to Excelsior and three against Idaho Falls. Outside of that, Huggins said the number of walks given up was ultimately what doomed his side over the past 10 days.
“We’ve got to get back to pitching strikes, pitching for contact,” Huggins said. “We’re walking too many lead-off guys. We’ll get that shored up.”
Even with the head-scratching results, Huggins was able to tip his hat to the level of competition on display last week in Jackson. One reason for the Giants’ stacked schedule through the first part of the season is to get as many high-level teams in the opposite dugout before the meat of the season begins.
That’s a big part of the reason teams like Idaho Falls find themselves matching up with Jackson so much during the first part of summer.
“You come to a tournament like this, and see some of these teams play, it’s always a good benchmark for where we’re at as a club ahead of our district tournament,” Idaho Falls manager Trent Johnson said. “Sometimes playing teams above our skill level makes us rise to the occasion. So for us it’s been a big confidence builder this last week.”
Quite like Jackson, Idaho Falls is winding down its tournament schedule and gearing up for its own conference play and district tournament. In the three games Jackson and Idaho Falls have squared off in, the Bandits have gotten the better with two wins against one tie. Even so, Johnson said he’s been impressed with what the Giants have brought to the diamond each time.
“They’re a scrappy bunch,” he said. “It seems like they always play the game right. Every game I’ve watched them or played against them, they’re always in the game.”
Jackson played conference opponent Casper on the road Tuesday night in a game that finished after press time. From there the Giants head to Idaho for the Boise Wood Bat Classic, running Thursday through Sunday. Next Tuesday the team returns home to take on Rock Springs in another conference game.