Expectations are much higher for a Laramie Rangers legion baseball team that returns everyone from their 2017 roster.

Laramie has 12 players back from last year’s squad that finished 29-21 overall. The Rangers went 1-2 at the state tournament with a victory over Casper, followed by losses to Gillette and Sheridan.

Fourth-year manager Brandon Ruckman said their prospects are different than last year.

“Definitely end goal, in my eyes, is to win state with this group. I think they’re capable. They’re talented. They’re stronger, faster than last year, so that’s the end goal.”

Ruckman admitted he’s not overly concerned with their record. Laramie is off to a 0-6 start this season with losses to Casper, Cheyenne Post 6 (twice), Gillette, Jackson, and Sheridan. The schedule will ease with action against Wheatland and Douglas this weekend.

Another piece to that is an uptick in the strength of schedule this year.

Ruckman said, “These kids are capable of playing that tough of a schedule. If you really want to see where you’re at within our state of Wyoming, you’ve gotta play those better teams. We are playing like the Mountain Vista’s, Omaha South this year; just teams that we haven’t typically played. Cody, Wyoming’s good. So, we’ll see, we’ll see how it goes.”

Laramie is led by two returning college players that were First Team All-State last season in Blake Moore (two-time honoree) and Reid Baty. They are joined by Second Team All-State selections Albert Steiner and Will Yates. Those four, plus a core of other veterans will lead the Rangers in 2018. Of note, one returner, Jaykob Ahrenholtz, may be lost due to an injury.

Still, Ruckman said, “It’s great (having a veteran team). The guys know what they’re supposed to be doing. I very rarely intervene. The leaders kind of stepped up early this year, and we’ve been seeing that, and we don’t even have the college players back yet, either, so you add those two in to the mix, and it’s going to be an exciting year to have such a veteran group on the field.”

There’s also better numbers in the program for 2018. Ruckman mentioned 38 players for three levels this year. Besides the varsity Rangers, there’s the JV Laramie Deputies and a prep team for younger players in the Laramie Marshals.

In his fourth year, Ruckman likes how things are building.

“We’re making strides, definitely. We’re headed in the right direction. Do I think I’m 100 percent comfortable where we’re sitting? No. I would definitely like to be a lot deeper. We definitely have guys that have come out and getting some interest from a lot of newer players. I want to see us similar to Gillette and Cheyenne, where we have just people coming up through the organization from bottom-to-top. From the 12-year old teams, all the way up through (the varsity) is what I’d like to see happen. We’re not quite there, but we’re close. Just some things we can work on over the next couple of years. Definitely, where we’ve come (from) in the last four years is an improvement, for sure.”

He also added there’s been more pressure put on the guys with very good youth that are pushing even the veterans to perform at a higher and more consistent level.

Ruckman says their key will be to play with more consistency, something he’s been striving to achieve for the last couple of seasons.

The Rangers will make their home debut Saturday against the Wheatland Lobos. The doubleheader at Cowboy Field begins at 10 a.m. Game one will be broadcast on KOWB (AM 1290). David Settle will call the action with the broadcast starting at 9:45 a.m.