Whether the Casper Cutthroats win their first Mountain Collegiate Baseball League championship or lose in heart-breaking fashion for the third consecutive year, the result will transpire at home.
Rather than the 2-2-1 format originally agreed upon to start the season, every game of the best-of-five series will instead take place at Mike Lansing Field, as agreed upon by Cutthroats owner and general manager Aaron McCreight and Toros owner and coach Ryan Kolo.
McCreight said he first broached the idea to Kolo prior to the Toros' play-in game against the Sterling Xpress on Monday for the right to travel three hours north for Game 1 on Tuesday. However, other members of the Cutthroats suggested the possibility had been discussed as far back as a week ago.
Kolo, in agreement with McCreight that the facilities and general atmosphere of Mike Lansing Field trumped that of Northern Colorado's baseball fields at Nelson Farms, a four-park complex where the Toros do not charge admission for tickets, left the decision up to his players, who Kolo said subscribed to the reasoning as well.
"It's just the proper venue to play baseball in, so that's what we're doing," Kolo said of Casper's 1,800-seat stadium. "This is a championship series, and this is a great venue up here -- lots of excited fans -- and our guys love playing in it, so it was a no-brainer."
Remaining in Casper will allow the Cutthroats to benefit from the comfort of their respective host families, while the Toros returned from their 4-3 Game 1 loss to the Parkway Plaza Hotel & Convention Centre on Tuesday.
Along with the additional opportunities for ticket and concessions revenue, staying in Casper also means the elimination of expenses that accompany road games. McCreight declined to talk specifics of any potential revenue-sharing with the Toros, stating only that "we'll talk about it."
"Knowing the situation down in Northern Colorado, the support's just not there yet, and Ryan understands that," said McCreight, adding that he did not approach the Sterling Xpress about forgoing their home games if they had won the play-in game. "You're not going to have what we have anywhere else in this region, let alone this league, so why not play a championship series in front of these fans?"
Northern Colorado had won five consecutive games against the Casper Cutthroats -- three at home and two on the road at Mike Lansing Field -- before the Cutthroats' extra-innings victory on Tuesday. Casper (29-13) went 8-7 against Northern Colorado (17-22) during the regular season, registering records of 5-2 at home and 3-5 on the road.
"It's awesome that all five games will be here," said Cutthroats catcher Hayden Pewitt, who brought home the game-winning run with a bases-loaded bunt down the right field in the 12th inning. "We were pulling for them to win [the play-in game] so maybe we could get them all here."
The Cutthroats fell in Game 1 of last year's championship series to the Cheyenne Grizzlies before ultimately losing at home in Game 2 for a two-game sweep, and the importance of taking the first game of this year's five-game set, especially at home, was not lost on manager Steve Stutzman's ball club.
Even with the onus to take advantage of two games at home before leaving the comforts of familiarity no longer a factor, the goal remains the same: win the series in the least amount of games as possible.
"After last year, when we lost the first game on a home run," Pewitt said, "we were down after that one. ... Getting the first one is the big one. That's the one you need to win."