A walk and a passed ball scored the tying and go-ahead runs for the Pioneers (1-2) after they loaded the bases with two outs down 8-7 in the bottom half of the sixth.
Another passed ball scored what would prove to be a needed insurance run, as the Halos would tally one run in the top of the seventh.
Powell coach Jason Borders said his team played better than in its winless season-opening doubleheader against Sheridan May 18.
“I think everybody, top to bottom, did something good (Saturday),” Borders said. “Everybody contributed in some way. It was good to see.”
Veteran Pioneers Hayden Cragoe, Brendon Phister and Zander Andreasen made their returns to the dugout against Billings, but only Cragoe, who entered as a pinch-hitter in the sixth-inning, played in the first game.
Cragoe is nursing a shoulder injured while pole vaulting for the state champion PHS track and field team, Phister was recovering from illness and Andreasen missed a practice.
Borders also wanted to reward the players who had been at practice all week.
“(I’m) trying to get the kids that have been in there and put in their time,” Borders said.
Rain washed away all but the first inning of the second game of the scheduled doubleheader, and Borders hasn’t seen his full squad take the field. The rained-out game will not be made up and will not count towards the teams’ records.
“It would have been nice for me to see how everything worked,” Borders said.
The offense, minus three of 2013’s most productive players, seemed to work fine.
Third baseman Grady Sanders remained perfect at the plate and is now 10-for-10 through the season’s first three games.
Starting pitcher and first baseman Bryce Wright of Greybull got his first action of the season with a 3-for-3, two-RBI performance. Wright hit an RBI single in the fifth and took a bases-loaded walk in the sixth that scored the game-tying run.
Walks played a key role for both teams.
Cragoe led off with a walk in the sixth followed by a line-drive single by right-fielder Dillon Nix. The two-on, no-out situation quickly turned into two on, two out when Cragoe was called out on the base paths and Cory Heny flied out to center.
Sanders hit a ground ball to the Billings third baseman, who opted to go for the force out at third rather than throw to first, but all Pioneers were safe. Wright followed with his walk, and shortstop Matt Sweet scored the go-ahead run on a passed ball. Catcher Jared Wantulok walked to reload the bases and Sanders scored from third on a second passed ball before Matt Brown struck out.
Wright, two weeks removed from an appendectomy, lasted just two innings on the mound. The left-hander gave up only one hit but allowed six walks and was pulled for Matt Brown after loading the bases with no outs in the third.
Borders said Wright’s conditioning has suffered due to his surgery and affected his performance against Billings.
“He was fine the first inning,” Border said. “I think he just got tired and his mechanics broke down.”
Wright couldn’t locate his pitches and walked three consecutive Halos to load the bases in the second. A passed ball scored Billings’ first run, a fielder’s choice scored their second and a throwing error on shortstop Matt Sweet scored their third.
Wright walked two more in the third before moving to first base.
Borders said Wright will get better as he gets more time on the mound.
“We’ll be fine; he’ll figure things out,” Borders said.
Brown pitched the game’s final five innings, allowed two earned runs on four hits and three walks while striking out three.
“For this early in the season, I thought he threw good,” Borders said. “He had good command.”
Brown gave up a two-out, three-run home run in the third inning on a pitch he later told his coach slipped out of his hand.
Home runs by Powell opponents have been a too-common occurrence for Borders.
The Halos scored their only run of the storm-shortened second game on a solo shot, the third long ball the Pioneers have given up in 21 innings.
“It’s not something that’s going to keep happening,” Borders said of the home runs.
Heny, batting second, was 2-for-4.
Brown and right fielder Ty Whiteman went a combined 0-for-5, but each drove in two runs. Brown hit a sacrifice fly that scored Wright in the third and a fielder’s choice that drove in Sanders in the fifth. Whiteman drove in Wright and catcher Jared Wantulok on a fielder’s choice to shortstop in the first.
Borders said the pair, hitting sixth and seventh in Powell’s order, did a good job extending the lineup.
“I’ve told the kids all year, ‘If you hit, you’ll be in there. I’ll find a place for you,’” Borders said. “Just driving the ball deep and scoring runs, to me that counts. That’s all we can ask. When you get up in a situation, you do something.”
The Pioneers have only three games under their belts as they begin their conference schedule with a doubleheader against Lovell beginning at 5:30 p.m. today (Tuesday) in Powell.
The Mustangs were 10-26 (0-4 Northwest) in 2013 and lost both games of a doubleheader against Riverton on Friday, but Borders said, “I’m not going to second-guess anybody.”
Powell will be without Cragoe, who will be in Laramie for an orientation at University of Wyoming, and Andreasen will likely start at second for his first action of the season.
Conference games will be slightly different in 2014.
Rather than play a single nine-inning game as was the case in years past, teams will now play two seven-inning games during conference match ups. One doubleheader will be played at home, the other on the road against each conference opponent.
A game between Powell and Cody’s 16-and-under players is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday evening, but may be postponed or canceled. Due to players with other obligations, Powell would have to play at least four 18-year-olds against a Cody team that fields 14- through 16-year-olds.