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Powell outlasts Lovell, remains 3-0 in league play

The Powell Pioneers staved off a late Lovell Mustangs comeback to win their third league game of the season 11-9 Monday night in Cowley.

The Pioneers survived a sloppy, occasionally wet game in which the Mustangs amassed 20 hits, including four in the ninth.

Hayden Cragoe, who relieved Cory Heny in the sixth, began the ninth with a 11-6 lead.

The first Mustang walked, but the second flew out to right and the third popped out to first, leaving the Pioneers with only one more out needed to seal a five-run victory.

But Lovell wouldn’t go quietly into the night, hitting back-to-back singles and taking advantage of two Powell errors to make the score 11-8.

With a runner on third and already behind in the count 1-0, Cragoe threw a wild pitch that skipped by catcher Zander Andreasen (Powell’s second catcher of the game) to score what would be Lovell’s final run.

The Mustangs’ last batter watched as the umpire called three straight balls, followed by three straight strikes.

Powell jumped to a 6-1 lead after two innings and looked to be in control of the team it beat 7-1 on June 18, but managed only one hit, a bases-empty single by Gage Henderson in the fourth, between the third and sixth innings.

Lovell pulled its starter, Dillon Pickett, before he was able to register an out in the second inning. Pickett was wild in his brief time on the mound. He walked six, balked, hit a batter and threw two wild pitches.

But the Panthers’ patience came back to bite them when Lovell brought in Calder Forcella. Unlike Pickett, Forcella attacked the strike zone, throwing off Powell’s approach at the plate.

“We didn’t adjust,” said head coach Jason Borders. “We were still trying to work counts. With a pitcher like that you just want to drive the first fastball you see.”

While Powell’s bats were resting, Lovell’s sprung to life. The Mustangs scored five runs between the third and fifth innings to tie the game at six.

Heny gave up six runs (four earned) in his five-and-one-third innings of work. Heny allowed 12 hits, walked only one and struck out two while throwing 103 pitches.

Maybe it was the pressure of potentially blowing a five-run lead, but Powell played old-time baseball to manufacture runs in the final three innings and scrape out the win.

“I was really pleased with the way we executed playing small ball,” Borders said. “We got bunts down when we had to. We did a pretty good job scoring runs that way.”

Brendon Phister led off the seventh with a double and then stole third, setting up Bryce Wright’s sacrifice fly to drive in the go-ahead run.

The Pioneers were poised to blow the game back open after two walks and a Lovell error loaded the bases with one out.

But Matt Sweet hit into a fielder’s choice and then Cragoe’s foul popup was tracked down to end the threat.

The Mustangs started the bottom of the seventh with two singles to put men on first and second. Lovell was regaining the momentum before a pop out, strikeout and successful pick-off play at first got Cragoe out of the inning and maintained the one-run lead.

One hit and a lot of speed was all the Pioneers needed to add to their lead in the eighth, as rain began to fall from the darkening sky .

Heny led off with a line-drive single to left, advanced to second on an error and then was advanced to third by Henderson’s sacrifice bunt. A wild pitch offered Heny more than enough time to make it across the plate to put Powell up 8-6.

The much-needed insurance runs came in the ninth.

Grady Sanders singled up the middle, and was then replaced on the basepaths by Dillon Nix. Nix advanced to second after an error on the Mustangs catcher and then reached third on Matt Brown’s sacrifice to first. Nix scored on Andreasen’s bunt single.

Cragoe singled and Heny walked to set the table for a wild bang-bang play that ended the ninth and almost cost Powell a run.

A wild pitch sent Cragoe from second to third, and Heny from first to second, where he found himself in a pickle midway between the bases, but avoided the tag long enough to let Cragoe score from third.

Phister led the Powell offense with three hits, three RBI and a run scored in five at-bats. He also stole four bases, including third base twice. Phister has come on of late, going 11-22 in his past five games.

Borders said Phister missed practice at the beginning of the season due to committments to the Powell High School track team and took awhile to get back into the swing of baseball. Now his bat and running ability is providing a boost for the Pioneers.

“We got to have him in the lineup,” Borders said. “He causes a lot of problems on the bases, and he’s on base a lot.”

Borders said Phister, who plays linebacker for the Powell High School football team, is one of the Pioneers’ most aggressive players.

“He plays baseball with a (football) mentality,” Borders said.

Heny was 2-for-3 with two walks and three runs scored. Cragoe went 1-for-4 with a walk and three runs scored.

Matt Sweet went hitless in two at bats from the lead-off spot but walked three times and scored twice.

“For a 16-year-old he’s done a heck of a job,” Borders said. “Leading off is a tough position for a 16-year old.”

Cragoe allowed three runs (two earned) off eight hits, three strikeouts and a walk.

Starting catcher Jared Wantulok was pulled after five innings for committing two costly throwing errors. Andreasen normally plays second base but was tapped to man the plate after Wantulok and backup catcher Ben Wetzel were removed.

“He’s (Andreasen) a pretty good catcher,” Borders said. “He usually does a pretty good job blocking balls and knowing what’s going on all the time.”

Powell travels to Casper today (Thursday) to compete in the Mike Devereaux Tournament, which isn’t really a tournament, from July 11-14.

Powell will play Thompson Valley today (Thursday) at 11 a.m., the Casper Oilers Friday at 8 p.m., the Casper Drillers Saturday at 3 p.m. and Rapid City Post 320 Saturday at 6 p.m.

Powell’s one remaining league game is in Cody Tuesday at 5 p.m.

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