Powell manager Jason Borders said his squad has yet to hit its stride.
“Every game a different team shows up,” Borders said. “They’re not consistently bad. They’re not consistently good.”
One of the few consistent aspects of the Pioneers’ game was defense — bad defense.
The Pioneers committed 31 errors (3.88 per game) while being outscored 69-49 over last week’s eight contests. In only one of those games (Saturday’s 15-1 win over the Bozeman Spikes) did Powell commit fewer errors than its opponent.
“I tell them just make the easy plays and let the hard ones come,” Borders said. “We’ve got guys coming in on fly balls and dropping them. Just flukey.”
Powell is in the middle of a grueling schedule that has them playing nearly 20 games in two weeks.
“This is the grind. We’re playing doubleheaders every day and we get two days off a week,” Borders said.
But the manager said the team’s current woes can’t be blamed on fatigue.
“If you’re winning I think it’s all right,” Borders said of playing so many games. “If you’re struggling they just get down and it’s hard to get back up.”
The grind has taken its biggest toll on Powell’s pitching, and immediate relief is not available.
“There’s going to be guys that are just going to have to throw a ton of innings I think,” Borders said.
Grady Sanders had a heavy load on back-to-back days. He threw 84 pitches in two games Friday, and threw 99 in a Saturday start.
Ty Whiteman, who missed the 2013 season due to Tommy John surgery, has been one of Powell’s best pitchers this season, and is being relied on heavily. Whiteman threw 95 pitches Tuesday, 67 Saturday and another 20 on Sunday.
Borders said he is taking precautions with Whiteman and makes sure the righty is confident in his arm before throwing him out there.
“We’re watching his pitch count,” Borders said. “He’s letting me know how he feels. I’m not putting him out there unless he feels good.”
An illness to Matt Brown shortened Powell’s rotation even more, and the Pioneers pitched four players not often relied on to take the mound.
Bryce Wright injured his knee against Miles City June 10 and his status for the remainder of the season is uncertain. Wright was scheduled to visit a Billings doctor Monday.
The team hopes Hayden Cragoe can eventually reclaim his role as a starting pitcher but a shoulder injury has him at second base for the time being.
Buffalo Wild Wings Invitational
Powell began the tournament by overcoming a season-high eight errors to beat Gillette 14-10 Friday morning.
The Pioneers scored in every inning but the sixth to give plenty of run support to starting pitcher Cory Heny, who allowed only one earned run, gave up seven hits and struck out four. For the second time in three starts Heny walked no batters.
Sanders hit a two-run homer in his first at-bat to spark a four-hit, six-RBI game.
Heny and Zander Andreasen, Powell’s 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup, each had three hits while Jared Wantulok, Brendon Phister and Ezra Andreasen each had two.
Powell’s hot bats cooled significantly by midday, when it took on the Billings Blue Jays.
The Pioneers managed only three hits as they were shut out in a 10-0 five-inning loss. Heny, Wantulok and Phister all hit singles for Powell.
Carson Asher gave up five runs (four earned) on seven hits, no walks and two strikeouts in the start.
One night and 11 innings later Powell’s offense sprung back to life and scored 10 runs in the final frame of a 15-1 win over the Bozeman Spikes.
Ezra Andreasen led the Pioneers with three hits, four RBIs and two runs. He hit two RBI singles in Powell’s sixth-inning onslaught.
Heny was 1-for-1 with two walks and four RBIs.
Whiteman threw an efficient one-hitter in which he struck out two and walked one.
For the second straight day the Pioneers couldn’t replicate their morning effort in the late game.
Powell got one hit and was throttled 18-1 by the Billings Cardinals Saturday afternoon.
Matt Sweet got Powell’s lone hit and was one of four pitchers Powell used for five innings of work.
Sweet pitched an inning and a third, Zander Andreasen went two-thirds, Blaze Flores threw one-and-two-thirds and Wantulok finished the game with one and one-third innings.
Sweet gave up no hits but four walks led to four runs. Flores gave up four hits and four walks as the Cardinals scored 11 runs (only three earned).
Powell committed four errors and only eight of the Cardinals’ 18 runs were earned.
The Pioneers rebounded on Sunday but fell just short in a 7-6 loss to Bozeman.
Trailing 7-1, Powell rallied for five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The Pioneers loaded the bases for Wantulok, who hit a two-run single. Walks by Brown and Sweet, coupled with two Bozeman errors, brought Powell within one run of tying the game.
Powell vs. Glendive
Powell lost to Glendive 9-7 in a back-and-forth affair Wednesday afternoon.
A scheduled doubleheader was changed to a single nine-inning game due to rain.
Powell held a 6-3 lead heading into the bottom of the fourth but the Blue Devils scored three runs to go ahead and they never looked back.
Teagan Cordes was 4-for-5 with an RBI. Zander Andreasen was 0-for-1 but drew five walks and scored twice. Wantulok had two hits and two RBIs.
Sweet gave up six runs (four earned) on five and two-third innings. Wright threw two and one-third innings before a knee injury forced him out of the game.
Powell vs. Miles City
Powell’s week began with an extra-inning loss to Miles City June 10.
The Outlaws hit an RBI single off Cordes in the bottom of the eighth to walk off with a 5-4 win.
Wright was 2-for-3 with a run scored, Heny went 2-for-4 and Whiteman was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run.
Brown gave up four runs (two earned) on two hits, eight walks and three strikeouts in four innings. Whiteman struck out seven and walked five in three and two-thirds innings.
Game 2 was shaping up to be as close as the opener but a six-run fifth inning by the Outlaws was more than Powell could handle in a 9-2 loss.
Ezra Andreasen was 2-for-3 with a run and Sanders had Powell’s only RBI of the game.
Asher gave up eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits in four innings. Flores pitched the final two innings, allowing two hits and one run.