The Minors All-Stars begin play at 11 a.m. Wednesday against Lander.
Minors head coach Cory Ostermiller said his team has been working hard to make the most of their opportunity at district.
“It probably hasn’t been the most fun they’ve ever had,” Ostermiller said. “We’ve worked them pretty hard the past few weeks. They always come excited with pretty good attitudes.”
Ostermiller said the team that went 1-3 in the Twin Cities Tournament in Cody July 5-6 will have to up its baseball IQ to have the best chance to succeed in Riverton.
“We really struggled with knowing where the baserunners are at, knowing which base to throw to, getting the lead runner, that type of thing,” he said.
That’s why defense was a focus during practice last week. Players took grounder after grounder and pop fly after pop fly to practice fielding the ball cleanly and then throwing it to the correct base.
Ostermiller said it’s tough for young players to grasp and be constantly aware of baseball’s many subtleties.
The team hit the batting cage Friday to take swings and work on some offensive nuances.
“We haven’t worked a lot on bunting,” Ostermiller said. “If you throw a bunt down with multiple baserunners on it makes their (the opponent’s fielders’) heads spin.”
Ostermiller also wants his hitters to see as much live pitching as possible before the tournament.
“We can hit off a machine all night, and it does help, but hitting off live pitching is the best way,” he said.
The team will take the weekend off before coming back to practice Monday or Tuesday. Ostermiller said it’s important to give his players a break.
“It’s been so hot out they’ve just been wilting,” he said.
While the team will try its best to improve what is in its control, Ostermiller said the team may benefit from what’s not.
“I feel good about the side of the bracket that we’re on,” he said.
The Powell Minor All-Stars will have to get through Lander and either Green River or Kemmerer, none of which they’ve seen this season, before possibly facing a familiar foe from the other side of the bracket in the championship game.
Riverton and Cody, two teams that beat Powell in the Twin Cities Tournament, wouldn’t pose a threat until Saturday morning’s championship game, if Powell were to make it that far.
Ostermiller said teams that come from cities with established baseball programs (like Riverton and Cody) often field stronger Little League teams than cities without American Legion teams, like Lander and Kemmerer.
The North Big Horn All-Stars (whom Powell beat 9-6 July 5) and Bridger Valley also loom across the bracket.
Ostermiller will send out Brailey Gann to pitch against Lander, with either Landon Lengfelder or Mason Marchant taking the mound in Powell’s second game.
“He throws strikes, throws with pretty good velocity,” Ostermiller said. “I know we can compete. A lot of the time it’s just about pitching.”
Gann is currently dealing with an injury to his right thumb, Ostermiller said, but so far it hasn’t affected his pitching, though it causes him pain while batting.
The Powell Major All-Stars play host Riverton 6 p.m. Wednesday. A first-round win would advance the team to a 7 p.m. game against the winner of Kemmerer vs. Bridger Valley Thursday.
Majors Head coach Scotty Brown said he’s going to throw everything he has at Riverton.
“If you don’t win that first game you have to work really hard to get back,” he said. “We’ve seen the team, we know they’re beatable. We can’t be slacking off but we know they’re beatable.”
Either Charlie Whitlock or Jeremy Herd will start the game, with the other available for potential relief work.
“I have no problem burning a pitcher and not having him for the rest of the tournament if it means winning that first game,” Brown said.
The Major All-Stars were winless in three games at the Twin Cities Tournament.
“The first tournament is always the most difficult, for the players and the coaches,” Brown said.
The team was plagued by errors and an ineffective offense during the 0-3 tourney run, but showed improvement during a 17-3 win against the North Big Horn County All-Stars.
“They can certainly be happy they made some changes and some adjustments compared to the (Twin Cities Tournament),” Brown said. “We weren’t afraid to let (Lovell) hit and we minimized errors.
“I think we made some real improvements. Definitely mentally.”
Brown said the team works on defensive fundamentals in the first half of practice before simulating game situations and giving each player at least one live at-bat.
“We still need to work on being aggressive at the plate,” Brown said. “Timing at the plate is so much of the battle.”
But Brown is confident that the improvements are coming and that the Major Division All-Stars’ prospects at districts is better than their Twin Cities showing might suggest.
“If we work on our fundamentals and continue to work on our hitting skills, I think we still have a pretty good darn chance at district,” Brown said.
If Powell loses against Riverton they will play the loser of Kemmerer vs. Bridger Valley in the first round of the consolation bracket.
Both the Majors and Minors tournaments are double elimination, meaning a team isn’t eliminated from championship contention until they have lost two games.