Defense saved Powell (4-4) in the early game. The Pioneers escaped bases-loaded jams in the third and fifth innings with minimal damage and won 8-7 behind Cory Heny’s first-inning home run and a team effort on the mound.
The Pioneers used a four-run third inning, ignited by Heny’s solo shot to left field, to overcome a quick 4-0 deficit.
Starter Matt Brown was pulled after a rough first inning in which he gave up four runs on two hits and four walks. All four runs scored with two outs.
Powell got two back in the first thanks to a Frankie Vogt’s RBI double and a passed ball that scored Vogt just a few plays later.
Powell added two more in the fourth, which would allow the Pioneers to withstand the oncoming Halos rally.
Billings had only four hits but took advantage of Powell’s erratic pitching to draw 11 walks and keep the game close. Five Pioneer errors gave the Halos extra opportunities.
“We just have those innings where one thing happens and it just snowballs,” said Pioneers head coach Jason Borders. “It just grows into something bigger before we can get it shut down.”
Borders said Powell was lucky to escape with a game one victory.
“You can’t continue to give teams five, six outs an inning and win at this level,” Borders said. “By the time the middle of the summer rolls around I’m not going to expect those errors out of them.”
Bryce Wright took the mound in the second and pitched a scoreless second and third before running into trouble in the fifth and being pulled for de facto closer Frank Vogt.
Up 8-4 in the top of the fifth, the Pioneers were bailed out by their second improbable double play of the afternoon. A walk followed by Wright’s wild pick-off attempt gave Billings a runner on second with no outs. The next batter drove a lined shot to center that was caught by Heny, who then threw to shortstop Hayden Cragoe on second before the would-be scorer could return to tag up.
The double play proved to be what sealed the Powell victory, as the Halos still went on to score three runs in the fifth, cutting the lead to 8-7.
Powell’s first big double play came in the top of the fourth.
With one out and Halos dotting second and third, the Billings hitter smashed a line drive that was caught by Heny in center. Thinking he had enough time to score, the runner on third tagged, but was unable to get around Pioneers catcher Jared Wantulok, who had caught Heny’s strike from the outfield.
“If we don’t get that, we basically lose that baseball game,” Borders said.
Two walks issued by Wright and an error on Cragoe loaded the bases for the Angels with one out in the top of the third, but an infield fly and hard liner that found the glove of second baseman Zander Andreasen got Powell out of the jam.
Up only a single run, Vogt finished off the Halos with a perfect two and one-third innings, securing the win for Powell.
“It’s nice to have that shutdown guy,” Borders said of Vogt.
Borders said that he plans to continue to use Vogt as a late-innings pitcher for the foreseeable future because he can pitch multiple games in a row.
“He doesn’t walk a lot of guys, he’s not making a lot of pitches. If things stand right now, he’s fine with (closing),” Borders said.
At the plate, Vogt went 1-for-2 with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored. Gage Henderson went 2-for-4 with a double. Wright had two RBIs on a single in three at bats and Cragoe drove in one run on a single in three at bats.
Henderson went 3-for-3 with a double and scored two runs in the late game but his offense was not enough in a 7-3 Pioneers’ loss to the Halos.
Powell had eight hits but couldn’t convert baserunners into runs.
“We put the ball in play, we didn’t have a ton of strikeouts,” Borders said. “It just comes down to hitting.”
Vogt added two hits and an RBI, and Cragoe drove in a run on a sac fly.
Heny pitched five innings in a shaky but innings-eating start for the Pioneers. He gave up seven runs, five earned, on nine hits and three walks.
“He wasn’t getting a lot of help,” Borders said of Heny’s outing. “We got to make plays behind Cory.”
Powell committed another three errors in the afternoon loss.
At the plate Heny was his usual patient self, drawing two walks despite going 0-for-2.
The Halos reversed their fortunes at the plate in game two, drawing only four walks but smashing 11 hits (including three doubles) off Pioneer pitching. Only two Halos failed to record hits in the late game.
Matt Sweet came in to pitch the sixth and seventh, shutting out the Halos on two hits, while recording one walk and one strikeout.
Powell’s scheduled doubleheader at Glendive, Mont. Monday was canceled due to weather. Today’s (Tuesday’s) doubleheader at Miles City, Mont. is pending due to weather.