The good news is Gene Taylor's American Legion baseball team has been in this position before.

The bad news is the history it has in this position is one that it must improve.

Gene Taylor's is heading to Fairfield, California, on Tuesday to start play in the American Legion Western Regional Tournament, playing Hawaii on Wednesday. The double-elimination tournament, which Gene Taylor's qualified for with a 4-2 win over Rocky Mountain last week in the Colorado Legion A state tournament, also features the state champions of California, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

This is the team's fourth trip to regionals, with Legion A state titles also coming in 2012, 2015 and 2017. There's a recent tradition of contending for state titles, and some players on the current roster experienced the 2017 trip.

However, Gene Taylor's has an all-time record of 0-6 in regionals.

"The biggest thing is to continue playing like we have been, play with a lot of energy and continue hitting the ball well," said Stevie Reynolds, who's entering his senior year at Palisade High School. "I think if we do all that, bring that energy and the fire we always have, hit the ball and execute, and play good defense, there's no doubt in my mind we'll win pretty easily."

Reynolds was on the 2017 team that was sent home from regionals after two games, so he's prepared for the stage this time.

One of Gene Taylor's other key pieces hails from two hours south of Grand Junction, in Nucla High School junior Ty Wytulka.

Wytulka has played a major role in Nucla's two consecutive trips to the state championship final. He was a standout on the mound in the Class 1A state tournament and also hit a two-run home run in the state title game against Flatirons Academy (then Cornerstone Christian).

He's brought the same production he gives Nucla to Gene Taylor's, but as a result, he's barely been in Nucla this summer.

"I've been home three times this summer, so I just stay up here," Wytulka said. "I stay with (teammate and Palisade High School player) Cody Bellmire."

Wytulka has been a standout at Nucla, but his talent stands out compared to much of the competition because of the small size of Nucla and 1A schools like it.

When he decided to join Gene Taylor's two years ago for American Legion action, he saw an immediate upgrade in the skill he faced.

"It's better competition playing in these summerball games," Wytulka said. "My high school's in 1A, so there's not a whole lot of competition there."

Flying to the West Coast isn't abnormal for the club. Early in July, Taylor's played in a tournament in Irving, California, so they're used to taking long-distance journeys to play under the Golden State sun.

This time, though, the stakes are much more significant. For players like Wytulka who weren't on the 2017 team, this trip carries much more urgency.

It also has a different feel than Nucla's state tournament trips.

"Nah, it doesn't feel the same," Wytulka said. "I don't know how to explain it, but it feels bigger."

Like Bellmire and Reynolds, Jack Mohler is a Palisade Bulldog looking to lift Gene Taylor's to late-summer glory. Gene Taylor's benefits from their presence, but they're also building chemistry that could pay off for their high school team, too.

"I've gained confidence. I hope my leadership abilities have come into play," Mohler said. "We have younger kids coming in, so I hope to help them, and I get to play with some Palisade kids on this team, and that brings us closer together so that we could maybe bring more success to our high school team."

Gene Taylor's will face Hawaii at 1:30 p.m. Mountain Time on Wednesday.

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