Powell took third place after alternating victories with defeats. The 3-2 tournament record pushed the Pioneers’ overall record to 9-8.
“It’s usually one of the tougher tournaments we go to all year,” said head coach Jason Borders. “For us to go up there and take third with what we had, I was really pleased.”
Powell traveled with a reduced roster, as Cory Heny, Bryce Wright and Ty Whiteman are all out with injuries.
“We’ve taken better teams down there and did worse,” Borders said. “For them to do what they did, shorthanded especially, I thought it was a success.”
The Pioneers’ success came on the arms of Grady Sanders, Jared Wantulok and Hayden Cragoe, who each threw a complete-game victory.
Borders said playing five games in four days gave his starters an extra-long leash.
“If they’re throwing and we’re winning, they’re not coming out,” he said.
Frankie Vogt was the team’s offensive force, going 12-for-14 with a home run and two doubles for six RBIs and seven runs scored in five games.
“I can’t even explain it,” Borders said. “It was like softball. If you’re hitting (like that) in softball you’re playing extremely well. And he did it in hardball.”
Sunday’s third-place clincher against the Richland County Pats of Sidney, Mont., was Powell’s most offensively-potent performance of the weekend. The Pioneers had only nine players on Sunday, forcing Borders to mix-and-match his batting order and defense.
“We were kind of out of position and made plays and got the win. I’m as proud of that game as any we played all weekend,” Borders said.
All nine Pioneers reached base, seven got hits and six drove in at least one run.
For his tournament finale Vogt went a modest 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, two RBIs, two runs scored and a stolen base.
Sanders went 2-for-5 with a double for four RBIs and a run scored.
Gage Henderson was 2-for-3 with a solo shot in the first inning and a sacrifice fly in the second for his two RBIs. He also stole a base and scored twice.
Catcher Ben Wetzel took advantage of his only start of the tournament by smacking three hits, including a double and an RBI single. He also walked and scored twice.
Cragoe had to throw 156 pitches to seal the win.
The complete-game win bookended a strong five-game stretch, both at the plate and on the mound, for the previously struggling Cragoe, who allowed five hits and five earned runs on 10 strikeouts and 10 walks.
Cragoe entered the tournament with a .280 batting average after going hitless in the Pioneers’ previous three games, but hit .388 over the weekend and raised his season average to .326.
“He’s coming around,” Borders said. “I knew that’s how Hayden would be. He’s starting to play like Hayden’s capable of playing.”
Cragoe’s first hit of the tournament was the biggest.
The shortstop hit a seventh-inning RBI single to lift the Pioneers over the Moose Jaw Devons in Powell’s tournament opener Thursday night.
“He was due,” Borders said. “He hit the ball hard that whole game, it was just right at people. It was clutch. It was huge.”
Sanders pitched a complete game three-hitter and overcame five errors by the Pioneer defense to hold the Devons to one run on three hits, four strikeouts and one walk in only 99 pitches.
“He stepped up big that first game,” Borders said. “(He) threw a hell of a game.”
Sanders is only 15, and would still be playing in Babe Ruth if it weren’t for the Pioneers’ injury-plagued roster.
“That’s what we need. They got to grow up fast and be the man,” Borders said. “I was really proud of him.”
Cragoe’s one-out single in the bottom of the seventh inning drove in Wantulok from third base and gave Powell the walk-off win.
Wantulok reached first on a ground-ball fielder’s choice, moved to second after Matt Sweet’s walk and then advanced to third on a wild pitch. The Devons intentionally walked Zander Andreasen to set the table for Cragoe to end the game on a full-count line drive to right field.
Cragoe was 0-for-3 in the game before his game-winning hit.
Vogt went 2-for-2 with a walk and a run scored. He also committed two errors.
Brendon Phister went 2-for-2 with a walk.
Any momentum gained from the dramatic game one win was lost by Saturday morning.
A six-run fifth inning was too little too late for the Pioneers in their 9-7 six-inning loss to the Lumsden Cubs.
The Pioneers outhit Lumsden 9-6 but didn’t get the timely hits when they needed them.
Borders said the Pioneers bats were more sluggish than slugging, and caused them to lose a game they should have won.
“We played really bad except that one inning where our bats woke up,” Borders said.
Vogt hit a two-run homer to lead Powell’s comeback attempt but Lumsden’s nine runs in the middle innings were too much for the Pioneers to overcome.
Powell starter Matt Brown once again struggled with his command. Brown allowed only five hits and struck out six, but he also walked six and allowed one baserunner to score and two more to advance on wild pitches. Both advancing baserunners would score later in their respective innings.
All nine Lumsden runs were scored with Brown in the game.
Vogt came in to pitch what would be the final inning. He gave up no runs on one hit with one strikeout.
Cubs starter Reid Chypsika provided his own run support when he capped Lumsden’s five-run third inning with a three-run home run.
Down 9-1, the Pioneers rallied in the bottom of the fifth behind Vogt’s homer and RBI singles from Cragoe, Brown and Phister.
Six of the nine Powell batters got hits, and the ones who didn’t still contributed to the score. Henderson Sanders and Matt Sweet went a combined 0-for-8 but each scored a run in the game.
Vogt went 3-for-3 with a walk, two RBIs and one run scored.
Cragoe went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run.
Vogt and Phister stole two bases apiece.
Moose Jaw and Lumsden are cities in Saskatchewan, Canada.
In Friday’s pool play game against the Pats, Wantulok battled through seven tough innings, allowing runs in four of them, but ultimately secured a 9-7 victory.
Powell recorded only eight hits by three players, but benefited from four Richland County errors, including three during Powell’s five-run first inning.
“You always want to play clean baseball,” Borders said. “You don’t want to beat someone because they can’t throw across the plate or can’t stop the ball.
“I want to beat people because we played better they did.”
Cragoe went 2-for-4 with a solo home run and a double. He scored both times he was on base.
Vogt accounted for five of the Pioneers’ nine runs. The third basemen drove in two runs on four hits, including two doubles, and scored three times.
Phister drove in two runs and scored twice on two singles and four stolen bases. His 10 bags on the season are second on the team.
Saturday’s semi-final game was over before a Pioneer batter even saw a pitch.
The Glacier Twins of Whitefish, Mont., chased Phister, in his first start of the season, off the mound after he gave up nine runs in only one-third inning of work.
The Twins would go on to score eight more runs off Henderson, who came in for four and one-third innings of relief, to win in decisive fashion, 17-2. The game was called after six innings.
Powell mustered only four hits off Glacier pitching. The Pioneers struck out 12 times and drew only four walks.
Phister faired better at the plate, driving in both Powell runs on a double in the first inning.
Vogt is on a torrid pace so far this season. He’s hitting .543 with three home runs, 16 RBIs and 19 runs in 14 games. He leads the team in average, runs, runs batted-in, doubles, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. His. 1.540 OPS is .226 ahead of the team’s next-best.
With on-base guru Heny out with a pinched nerve in his back that he suffered at a football camp, Borders used Andreasen atop the batting order in Powell’s first four games, and turned to Sweet in Sunday’s finale.
The Pioneers will host the Lovell Mustangs tonight (Tuesday) in their first game of league play. The first pitch of the nine-inning game is scheduled for 7 p.m.
“We have to win our conference games,” Borders said. “There’s no way around it, we have to win our conference.”