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May 23, 2013 8:24 am

Pioneers prepare for diamond return

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Full-strength team plays four against Angels

After a two-week layoff, the Powell Pioneers American Legion baseball team returns to the diamond this weekend for a pair of doubleheaders against the Billings Angels. Saturday’s games will take place in Billings while the Sunday games are held in Powell.

For the Pioneers, it will be the first opportunity of the summer to assemble as a complete team. When the squad opened the season on May 11, the team was short three members who were competing at track regionals. It will also be the last chance for the Pioneers to tune up before the calendar flips to June and things begin to get hectic.

“It will be nice to have Zander (Andreasen), Hayden (Cragoe) and Brendon (Phister) back,” said Pioneers coach Jason Borders, referencing the three regional track participants. “We’ll be able to get them in and that will help, especially from a depth standpoint.”

In spite of their return, Borders noted the weekend could see a lot of players playing in a lot of different positions as the coaching staff attempts to get a feel for who is capable of doing what for the team. Answers to those questions will be needed in a hurry as the team has games scheduled on 20 of the 30 days in June, as well as a pair of doubleheaders against Sheridan that are still looking for make-up dates on the crowded calendar.

One of the places fans are most likely to see that rotation this weekend will be on the pitching mound. Borders said the Pioneers will likely rely on a stable full of arms to get through the four games.

“We have a lot of guys who can throw, we just haven’t had a lot of mound time yet,” said Borders. “We just haven’t had it yet because we haven’t had the time. We’re going to get our arms in shape by just throwing.”

That need could be complicated by an early-season injury to Ty Whiteman, who Borders described as probably the team’s “most in shape” pitcher at this stage.

“He was throwing in practice and felt his arm pop a bit,” said Borders. “We don’t think it’s anything major, but we might have to do without him until he can get back to the doctor’s office. That hurts, because he’s probably our most in shape guy right now, because he plays winter ball and throws regularly in the off-season.”

Aside from that, the Pioneers’ coach is hoping the return to the diamond sees improvement in the area of fielding and hitting, two areas exposed as needing work in the Pioneers’ opening doubleheader loss to the Halos.

“Up until the rain came, things were going pretty good,” said Borders. “We let them off Friday night with all the graduation stuff that was going on and then we haven’t been able to have practice. We were trying to fix a lot of the little things we saw that were wrong the first time out. Hopefully we’ll see improvement, but after not practicing for four days, who knows how much we’ll remember.”

Should the team cut back its fielding errors and showcase a better approach at the plate, however, Borders indicated he would call that a success.

“This is a good time of the year to get those things figured out,” said Borders. “We don’t want to be in the heat of June and still be trying to fix the big things, because we have a lot of games.”

The Pioneers have been benefitting from an influx of additional coaches in recent days. Former players Tyler England, Josh Cragoe and Jake Beuster have all found their way back to town from their respective college campuses and have been helping out at practices.

“It’s nice, because they’re giving us stuff that they learned at school and sharing it with the coaches and the kids,” said Borders. “We can turn them loose with a few guys and that frees us up to work as coaches with other players. It’s a huge help for us.”

First pitch in Game 1 of both Saturday and Sunday’s doubleheader is scheduled for 1 p.m. The nightcap games are slated to start at approximately 3 p.m.

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