When it comes to the gold standard for Powell Babe Ruth baseball, the 2010 team just raised the bar for future years.
“It just goes to show that you can always do something if you put your mind to it,” said Powell head coach Pudge Fagan. “The kids we had that went last year had it as a goal to get back there this year, and the younger kids that we brought up this year wanted to be a part of that too.”
What they were part of was a wild roller coaster ride in Klamath Falls, Ore., that saw the team's week begin with a heartbreaking late-inning rally in a 7-6 loss to Hermiston, Ore. One day later, the All-Stars took a page from the “it ain't over ‘til it's over” playbook and manufactured a rally of their own for 7-5 win over the Klamath Falls Americans. It was a contest that featured five unearned runs by the Powell All-Stars as the team took advantage of every opportunity it was presented with.
The win was Powell's first at the regional tournament after suffering a string of run-rule defeats the previous summer.
On its own, the victory would have provided plenty of highlight for the team's trip.
Instead, it was merely the appetizer.
Powell followed its come-from-behind victory over the Klamath Falls Americans with an 11-0 shutout of the Klamath Falls Nationals, a team which won its district tournament in the southern Oregon region. The All-Stars turned in numerous stellar plays on the defensive side of the baseball and walked away with both offensive (Cooper Wise and Justin Lynn) and defensive (Brendan Phister) MVP honors for the contest as Wise pitched the complete game victory for Powell.
Suddenly, the team that was just hoping to win one found itself one win away from a spot in the semifinals going into its tournament off-day.
The day off allowed the tournament picture to pull into focus for Powell. Taking the diamond on Saturday, the team knew all it needed to do was register a win against Kelso, Wash., to cement a place in the semifinals. Unfortunately, that win had to come against what, in Fagan's mind, was the strongest team in the tournament.
“I'd be shocked if they didn't just walk away with it,” Fagan said following Sunday's semifinal loss by the All-Stars.
“That Kelso team, they don't just hit the ball. They smash it. They just hit some screamers and you worry if they hit one and its coming your direction.”
Despite the Washington team's proficiency with the bats, the All-Stars were able to give the squad its closest game of pool play in a 13-3 loss.
The loss didn't sink Powell's hopes for a shot at the semifinals, however. A number of possible tiebreak scenarios were slanted in the All-Stars' favor. It just meant the team would have to sweat out a few nervous hours waiting to see if the host Nationals could defeat Hermiston.
Mercifully, the Nationals didn't leave Powell fans on the edges of their seats for long. The Nationals popped eight runs on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first inning to comfortably take control of a contest that was eventually stopped due to the run rule.
With the victory, the All-Stars took their place in Sunday's semifinals against Kitsap, Wash. It is an honor that few, if any, Wyoming Babe Ruth teams have ever had.
“The officials we talked to out at the tournament said that it has been a very, very long time since a Wyoming team has played in the semifinals,” Fagan said. “Possibly ever.”
Sunday's semifinal saw Powell fall behind by a 5-0 count early against a Kitsap team that went undefeated through its preliminary pool. Powell had its chances, stranding the bases loaded with an 8-2 score on the board before things spiraled out of hand late in the seven-inning affair.
“I think we just ran out of gas,” said Fagan. “It was a tough game today, but I thought we could play them a little closer. The kids went out there and gave it everything they had. They left it all out there on the field, but I think we just ran out of gas late.”
In the end, it could be that depth came back to hurt the All-Stars. Wise threw 17 of the team's 31 innings in Oregon.
“A lot of the teams out here are drawing from a much bigger area than we are. The Oregon and Washington teams each pull players from quite a few communities,” Fagan said. “We're one of the few states that does it the way that we do. But I'm convinced that the way we do it is the right way.”
The Powell All-Stars received medals for their achievement of reaching Sunday's semifinals.“The thing I love about this tournament is that every team here is a class act,” said Fagan. “Our kids went out and represented Powell and the state of Wyoming with class. You didn't hear or see any negative feelings from any of the other teams. It was a positive environment.”