Pioneers coach Jason Borders said he and the team always learn a lot about themselves during the first couple games of a season.
“We have a good idea what happened today, things we need to work on,” he said.
A lot of Sunday’s problems — errors, hesitation, mental mistakes — will fix themselves when one-third of the team returns for Powell’s next games May 31 at the Billings Halos.
Hayden Cragoe, Brendon Phister and Zander Andreasen were absent from Powell’s lineup versus Sheridan, forcing the Pioneers to play out of position and with three newcomers.
Borders said the Pioneers will look like a completely different team once the roster is solidified and they are able to get a few games under their belts.
Sunday’s games were the fifth and sixth contests for Sheridan. The Troopers dropped their first two against the Billings Halos and scores from their Saturday doubleheader in Rapid City were unavailable at press time Monday.
Powell second baseman Matt Sweet took over Cragoe’s role at shortstop while two new players — Carson Asher and Blaze Flores — each got turns at second. Teagan Cordes, another Pioneer rookie, split time between right and center field.
Borders was impressed with Sweet, who showed off his range while the Troopers kept him busy at short.
“He’s going to be one hell of a second baseman,” Borders said.
Grady Sanders was Powell’s most productive player at the plate. The third baseman went 6-for-6, was hit by a pitch and drove in three runs Sunday.
Sanders is one of the players the Pioneers are counting on to provide consistent offense.
“He’s grown up a lot,” Borders said of the second-year Legion player.
Sanders started his hot day with a solo home run in the first inning of game 1. The line drive over the left field wall gave Powell a brief 1-0 lead.
The home run was Sanders’ most impressive hit of the day, but Borders was equally pleased with the way Sanders handled himself in subsequent at-bats.
“He didn’t go up there trying to swing it and get three,” Borders said. “He stayed within himself and took good (at-bats).”
The Pioneers held their one-run advantage until the fourth, when the Troopers loaded the bases with no outs and hit a grand slam to take a lead they would not relinquish.
Sheridan loaded the bases without ever hitting a ball out of the infield. The Troopers reached on an error, a hit batter and a bunt single before the nine-hitter sent a fly ball over the right-field wall.
Ty Whiteman started game 1 for the Pioneers after missing all of 2013 with an arm injury that led to Tommy John surgery. Whiteman threw 70 pitches over three innings while allowing five hits, five runs (four earned) and two walks. He struck out five.
Borders said Whiteman would be limited in his outings this season as the young righty tries to regain full strength in his arm.
“He kept telling me he’s good and he wants to stay out there,” Borders said. “I think he’s back, but I’m not going to let him go more than 70-80 pitches.”
The left-handed Matt Brown took over for Whiteman in the fourth and finished the game.
Sheridan scored another five runs in the sixth and two in the seventh to put the game out of reach.
Powell scored one in the first, third and fourth innings.
Down five runs in the sixth, Powell got its first two batters on base as it tried to mount a comeback. Cordes scored from third on a wild pitch, and Whiteman (moved to right field and batting ninth) scored when Cory Heny grounded into a fielder’s choice before a fly out and ground out ended the inning.
The Pioneers switched from black to orange jerseys in the second game, but the result was the same.
Sanders and Heny combined for both Pioneer runs.
Sanders drove in Heny with a stand-up double in the bottom of the third and again with a single in the fifth. Heny reached with singles both times and stole second to get in scoring position in the fifth.
Heny allowed six runs over four innings in his debut start. Sanders pitched 1.2 innings, and Flores came in to get the final out.
The game was called after six innings because Powell was down 10 runs.
Sheridan scored four in the third, two in the fourth, two in the fifth and four in the sixth.