May 6—CHEYENNE — Bailey Applegarth couldn't have been more excited for last baseball season.
He had had a solid sophomore campaign as part of a young Cheyenne American Legion Post 6 pitching staff bursting with potential. However, Applegarth's junior season ended almost as soon as it started.
Left knee pain nagged at the right-hander throughout Cheyenne's spring training. Eventually, his right elbow started aching, as well. He pitched just six innings before the pain became unbearable and forced him to shut it down.
"I never really found out what was wrong," Applegarth said. "My knee started hurting, and I think I hurt my elbow because I changed how I was pitching because my knee hurt.
"I started using less lower half and a lot more upper, and that put a lot more strain on my elbow."
Applegarth's knee pain eventually subsided, but the elbow remained troublesome into the fall, and eventually was put in a cast for three weeks.
"Everything feels pretty good right now," Applegarth said. "The situation stunk, but I learned a lot from it. I learned to take better care of my body with icing, heating, running and getting in better all-around shape. I'm still trying to do that."
The 6-foot-4, 235-pounder went 4-2 with 42 strikeouts, 25 walks and a 5.35 earned-run average in 33-2/3 innings as a sophomore. Opponents hit just .224 off of him, which was second-best on the Post 6 roster among pitchers with at least seven innings under their belts.
Thus far this season, Applegarth has posted a 2-0 record in 6-2/3 innings of relief. The 6-foot-4, 235-pounder has a 3.15 ERA with seven strikeouts against four walks. He has given up just four hits.
Applegarth has been strong overall, but up and down as he gets used to pitching again.
He fanned five University of Wyoming club team hitters and allowed just one hit across three innings in his second appearance of the season.
Applegarth's most recent appearance came during a 14-6 victory over Rapid City (South Dakota) Post 22 on Saturday. He walked the first two batters he faced, but settled down after catcher Kaden Anderson, shortstop Colter McAnelly and third baseman Mason Tafoya worked to pick off a runner trying to steal third.
Applegarth induced a flyout to right and then got out of the inning with a four-pitch strikeout.
"He just needs more reps," Post 6 manager Ty Lain said. "The more we play, the better he's going to get. He's throwing hard, and his slider has been good. (On Saturday), his arm was late and he was missing high, so there was a sequencing issue with his windup.
"We have to get his arm swing on time with his body and get him back on top of the baseball. If he can get back on top of the baseball and throw downhill, he'll be fine."
Applegarth isn't worried about his appearances being a mixed bag early this season. He considers his control issues against Rapid City a blip on the radar, and what he did against UW as the norm.
"I just need to get the jitters I've been feeling being back there out of the way," he said.
Even though he wasn't able to suit up for the Sixers, Applegarth didn't truly miss the season. He was a fixture in the dugout regardless of whether Cheyenne was playing at Powers Field or at tournaments in Nebraska, Kansas or southern Colorado.
"He showed he's a team-first guy by continuing to come around last year," Lain said. "He showed great character last year.
"He did everything you could have a guy do that wasn't playing in the game. It was mutually beneficial for us and him."
Applegarth said it was important for him to be around his teammates, even though he couldn't step on the field. He also picked up some things he expects to help him this summer.
"I wanted the guys to know I was there for them and supporting them," he said. "I've watched a lot of games, but you pick up a lot more things when you can't do anything but watch.
"There were things I noticed guys doing things I also do, and heard them being told they needed to work on those things. I was able to start working on those things eventually. Last season was tough, I learned a lot."
Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 307-633-3137. Follow him on Twitter at @jjohnke.