Powell was the runner-up in last weekend’s Northwest District Tournament in Powell, but was granted a berth to state after the Southwest Region’s three-team field advanced only one team to state.
Going into the tournament it was assumed that the only teams advancing to state from the Northwest District would be the tournament champion and the Worland All-Stars.
Worland is this year’s host for the age 15 Babe Ruth All-Star tournament, and receives an automatic bid into tourney play per Babe Ruth guidelines. But when a team in the Southwest dropped out, Powell was next in line.
It’s not how Powell had envisioned advancing to state, but it’ll do.
“We’re lucky to be in that situation,” said head coach Patrick Croft. “Coming from the kids’ perspective they’re ready to take full advantage of it. Once you’re in, you’re in.”
Powell alternated tournament victories against Riverton and Lovell with defeats at the hands of Cody, culminating in a tournament-ending loss to the cross-county rival in Saturday’s championship game.
Powell lost 14-4. Powell was held to just five hits in the championship game. Jerron Smith started the game but both Kaden Moore and Ty Dearcorn pitched in relief.
Had Powell won that game, an immediate winner-take-all rematch would have been played to satisfy the tournament’s double-elimination format.
Lucky for Powell’s All-Stars, it turned out just making the championship game was enough to give them a shot in Worland.
Croft said his players know they belong at state even if they qualified on a technicality.
“They feel like they deserve to be there,” he said. “They feel like they’re right up there with some of the best teams in the state.”
Powell began pool play at state Wednesday against Torrington. Check the Tribune’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/powelltribune) for results from that game.
Powell plays tonight (Thursday) at 7 p.m. versus Casper and then will seek revenge against Cody at 4 p.m. Friday.
“They stuck us in a pool with Cody again and they (Powell’s players) are excited to play them again,” Croft said.
Bracket play will begin Saturday.
“We want to go 2-0 and play Cody and beat them. Then turn around and beat them again on Saturday,” Croft said. “They can probably go down to state and compete with anyone who they’re going to face down there.”
Powell stamped its ticket to Worland when it beat Lovell 11-1 in five innings behind Carson Asher’s complete game. Asher allowed just a single run on three hits, no walks and three strike outs.
“That’s how you win a baseball game,” Croft said.
Zach Easum had two RBIs on two singles for Powell, as did Ty Dearcorn.
Powell led 11-3 before scoring two runs in the sixth to invoke the 10-after-five (10-run lead after five innings) mercy rule.
Powell got its first shot at Cody Friday, but was hammered 17-7. Cody only led by one run going into the sixth but a nine-run inning blew things open and ended the game an inning early.
Croft said Cody’s bats didn’t overpower Powell pitching, but errors and walks helped give Cody the win.
“That was really the difference in the ballgame right there,” Croft said.
Dearcorn started and pitched just three innings before arm fatigue ended his day.
Dearcorn started shaky — he hit the first two batters he faced — but settled down and pitched better before he came out.
Croft said issuing too many free passes to the Cody All-Stars allowed them to showcase their aggressive baserunning.
“Once they get a guy on first base their goal is to get them to third,” Croft said.
Powell’s Kaden Moore hit two singles and drove in two runs. Christian Stenlund hit a double and scored once.
Powell opened the tournament with a decisive 13-3 win over Riverton in six innings.
Jerron Smith hit a solo home run that was just a single shy of the cycle. Smith was 3-for-4 with three RBI and three runs scored.
“It was a pretty stellar night for him,” Croft said.
Teagan Cordes was 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored.
“They walked us quite a bit,” Croft said. “We took advantage of the walks, got guys in scoring position and had timely hitting.”
Powell’s second win of the tournament came against the Lovell All-Stars in another blowout.
Before the game, Croft said his team already knew that they could make it to state by merely advancing to the championship game.
He told his players, “This is the only one that matters to us.”
Despite the two losses, Croft said Powell played pretty well during the tournament.
“We only had 45 minutes of bad baseball,” he said.
He hopes to avoid any bad baseball in Worland, and play for a shot at the regionals in Centralia, Wash.
“It’s just going to be a matter of going down there and playing some good baseball and giving yourself a shot on Saturday,” Croft said.