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Tribune Staff

Duran becomes second player to sign with Trappers

Northwest College women's basketball coach Janis Beal announced this week that Mariah Duran has signed a letter of intent to play for the Trappers next season. Duran is a 5'5” shooting guard from Murray, Utah.

Last summer, I dared to tred into history's footsteps and quote from a 1965 gubernatorial proclamation, reclaiming the title of Wyoming's baseball capital for Powell. With the calendar transitioning to the month of July, the time has come for Powell's various teams to defend that lofty status.

It was only fitting, then, that on the eve of calendars turning from June to baseball's title month, the Powell Pioneers delivered a warning shot across the bow of the rest of the state. The premature fireworks display came in the form of a 32-run explosion on Tuesday night.

There isn't a team in the state that wouldn't gladly accept 32 runs as its output in a doubleheader. For a single game, that sort of total is practically unheard of in video game circles, much less on an actual grass-and-dirt stadium surface.

It was, as best I can tell, the greatest offensive output by a Wyoming baseball team this summer. Gillette shelled Rapid City for 28 runs in what appears to have been the previous 2010 summer high.

Admittedly, those 32 runs on Tuesday night mean very little aside from giving the Pioneers the inside track now for a No. 1 seed when district tournament play opens on July 22. Powell won't be able to carry any of that scoring surplus forward as post-season action opens. Scoreboards will still begin each game reading 0-0.

Still, there is a significance to the number.

The 2010 edition of the Pioneers has, in some ways, been a victim of its own prior success. I'm probably as much to blame as anyone for being blinded by it.

A stellar 26-11 summer has been lost in the relative familiarity of been there, done that. One year ago, that's a record we would have been celebrating. This year, it looks almost pedestrian, despite the fact that it has been achieved with as many as two regulars out of the lineup for two weeks of the summer.

The Pioneers' 12-game win streak in June was nice. But, again, it probably didn't turn heads around the community the way it should have because last year's team chained together 13 W's.

Of course, we forget that 13-game streak was believed at the time to be the longest on record for the club.

Two hitters clobbering the ball at an over .500 clip? We've seen that. A team drilling the ball in play at a .400 clip?

Impressive as it may be, that's a sequel as well.

So as we sit here at T-minus three weeks away from the start of Legion baseball's post-season, it was indeed refreshing to see the Pioneers step out of their own shadow with a statement so thunderous, so outrageously inconceivable, that it simply cannot be ignored. There's no guarantee that a title will come home to Powell in July, but the message has now been sent — the road to the title will, most likely, run through Powell.

There's still much work to be done. Pitching needs to be sharpened. Double-digit strikeout performances by the batting order need to be exorcized once and for all from the scorebook. Defensive play in the field can always be fine-tuned.

But the call to arms has now been issued. Not only the Pioneers, but the Babe Ruth and Little League squads should hear its call and respond with alacrity.

The calendar has officially turned to baseball's title month. Let the excitement and anticipation begin to build.

There should be a gradual buzz building in the days ahead as state tournaments move nearer. March may have its madness, but July holds fields full of dreams.

Here in Wyoming's baseball capital, that's just the way we like it.

The upcoming Fourth of July holiday weekend will be filled with exciting events and fun activities throughout the area.

While enjoying all the area has to offer over the Fourth, it's crucial Park County residents and visitors practice safety as well.

The recent rash of traffic fatalities in Park County — due to excessive speed, lack of seat belts, driving under the influence and motorcyclists' failure to wear helmets — should serve as a strong reminder to use additional caution when traveling Wyoming's roadways.

Not drinking and driving — along with slowing down, buckling up and wearing helmets — can go a long way toward keeping the holiday weekend tragedy-free.

People traveling to the mountains to celebrate should make sure others are aware of travel plans and destinations. Travelers should be prepared to encounter high water in area creeks and rivers, and hikers should have bear spray or a firearm handy when enjoying the back-country.

Fireworks should be handled with care to avoid the burns and injuries that send thousands of people to emergency rooms across the nation each year during Independence Day festivities.

Young children should not handle or ignite fireworks, and older children should be supervised by adults at all times. In order to prevent unintentional fires, fireworks should be used only in still conditions and in areas cleared of brush and debris.

The Fourth of July should be a time for all Americans to celebrate our independence and to create long-lasting memories with family and friends. The proper measure of caution can ensure weekend revelry doesn't take a tragic turn for the worse.

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Powell emergency personnel work to extricate the last victim from a car that crashed into a tree off Wyo. 295 north of Powell Saturday. EmiLee Bapst, 16, of Powell was killed in the crash and three other Powell teens were injured. Tribune photo by Don Amend

Three others injured

A Powell girl is dead following a Saturday crash north of Powell.

EmiLee Bapst, 16, was a passenger a 2000 Ford Taurus driven by Jack Farwell, 18, when the accident occurred. Two other passengers, Erik Rodriguez, 18, and Luke Sherley, 16, were seriously injured in the crash. All four occupants are from Powell.

A tragic accident at a rodeo in Jackson on Wednesday took the life of Nicolas Gillett, 20, of the Heart Mountain area, but he died with his boots on.

His brother, Andy Gillett, said Nick was doing what he loved — rodeoing — right to his untimely end.

A memorial service for Betty Derry will be at the Harvest Community Church of the Nazarene on Saturday, July 3, at 2 p.m.

Sitting Park County commissioners Tim French and Bill Brewer found themselves on the defensive at a Republican commission candidate forum in Cody last week.

Eight GOP challengers — Ted Davey, Vicki Gibson, Karla Gitlitz, Loren Grosskopf, Fred Reynolds, Joe Tilden, Hank Whitelock and Bill Yetter — took aim at a number of county decisions over the past few years, from its purchase and management of the Park County Complex to its budgeting process.

{gallery}06_29_10/carter{/gallery}

\Auston Carter is all smiles as he returns to the dugout following a go-ahead home run in the bottom of the sixth inning against the Billings Blue Jays on Friday night. Carter's blast proved to be the game-winner as Powell notched a 4-2 victory on the way to an undefeated performance in pool play.Tribune photos by Randal Horobik

After spotless pool play, bats silenced

The Powell Pioneers American Legion baseball team settled for runner-up honors at the 2010 Heavy Metal Classic baseball tournament on Sunday. After a perfect 4-0 performance in pool play, the Pioneers came up on the short side of a 2-0 loss to Billings Select in Sunday's title game.

“We didn't make the adjustments we needed to at the plate,” said Pioneers coach Mike Jameson, who saw his team strike out 12 times in the championship game. “We didn't get their pitcher out of his rhythm.”

Cowley youth qualifies in three events for nationals

Cowley's J.R. Vezain captured the 2010 Wyoming High School rodeo boys' all-around title and earned the right to compete in three events at the High School National Finals Rodeo later this summer. Vezain is the defending high school national champion in bareback riding.

Not surprisingly, it was Vezain's skill in that event that helped fuel his all-around title during the 2010 season. Vezain was the 2010 state bareback champion, amassing more than 3,000 points during the high school rodeo season in that particular event.

Every now and then, you run into someone who jogs your memory back to a simpler time. I encountered one of those old friends recently, (let's call him “Mark Skates,” since that is his real name).

We saw one another at (let's say “church,” although that is not where it was), and since he was my American Legion baseball coach in 1973 and a softball coach/teammate years later, we commonly talk sports.

After Mark pointed out how ridiculous my hair looked, I realized he regularly reads my column. But then he asked an intriguing question. “So how come you write about the old baseball days, but never about the softball years?”

I pondered, then said, “Ya know, Coach, you're not the first one who's asked me that. And as God is my designated hitter, you shall see a softball column soon.”

Today, I keep that vow to Mark, and to Sen. Hank Coe, who had asked me that same question several years ago at a local spot that also wasn't church.

Throughout my 20s and early 30s, Cody Men's Softball League was a bastion of male revelry. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times ... actually, there wasn't anything “worst” about it; I was young, quick, had long, thick hair, and I could run the bases without carrying an inhaler.

My first year after Legion baseball was dedicated to a team with my two brothers and our elder statesman/coach/pitcher, Irv Gerber, called the “Men's Christians.” Opposing us with mocking, maddening glee, in that league of about a dozen teams, was a team officially called “Chief Service.” But my brother Jess and I both recall they derisively referred to themselves as “The Heathens.”

Oh, Mark Skates and his merry men weren't a bunch of atheists or anything; I'm sure most of them were church-going young men who took communion and went to confession. But their confessions were probably a lot more fun to listen to than ours.

Since I was no altar boy myself at 20, I secretly hung around after the games to drink beer with the Heathens in the shadows. It was dubious, I guess, but I never saw it as a betrayal of Judas' proportions or anything.

So here's Skates, Jerry Skar, little George Francis, John Wiley and an entire family of “Ballingers” going against us Christians. Oh, and did I mention Bill “Blackie” Blake, often wearing some kind of fake, obscene nose, passing around a bottle of tequila between innings? How was our sincere, pre-game prayer gonna compete with THAT?

We had our big orange cooler of ice water and paper cups, versus their beer and tequila. Heck, occasionally they'd even carry their beers along while running the bases. That really got our goat, not to mention our oxen.

We chattered desperate clichés like, “Hey batter; hey batter … swing, batter!” They guffawed things like, “Hey, Francis popped up; guess who's buying the beer next game?” They they'd convulse in laughter, as we'd roll our eyes and try to turn the other cheek.

Oh, but how we Christians came to hate those Heathens. Our legendary games always ended 8-7, or 5-4, or 12-11 … always in their favor. As Skates reminded me the other night, “I remember one game, you guys were up 5-0 in the bottom of the ninth … we came back and beat you 6-5.” I said to Mark, “You're a dear to remember!”

We played a season or two at those old, short fields, with an over-sized ball we called “Melon Ball.” Coe hit home runs with irritating regularity, Loren Grosskopf once hit five in one game, and soon the league expanded to new, longer fields on Blackburn Avenue.

By that time, the rapture had taken place for the Men's Christian team and I had taken my under-rated skills to free agency. I played a few years for “Hidden Valley Ranch” with the Poulsen brothers, Alan Richardson and big Marv Nelson among other notables. Then for the bulk of my softball career, I found myself on “Jack Sports”… which was the Heathens under a new name. Suddenly, Blackie Blake, “the legend,” seemed almost mortal.

Oh, I joined in with their jokes about always beating our Men's Christian team, and my new, heathenistic teammates laughed like drunken hyenas. A piece of my heart, though, remained with that disbanded gaggle of second-place warriors that were heckled during team prayers.

And it begs the theological question, “Did God abandon the Men's Christians during those losses?” Certainly not, but he only helps those who help themselves. He wasn't the one over-throwing first base and misjudging fly balls during all those late-inning chokes.

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