Cragoe was 6-for-10, including two home runs, with eight RBIs and four runs scored in Powell’s 11-5 and 20-8 victories in Douglas.
It was only the fourth and fifth games played this season for the second baseman, who had missed games in May while on the Powell High School track and field team and all of last week’s action while participating in Shrine Bowl activities.
Cragoe’s bat provided a spark to a Pioneers team (8-10, 2-0 Northwest) that needed a fire lit under them after going 2-6 in a six-day span last week.
Pioneers manager Jason Borders said Tuesday’s games were “better than we’ve had in a couple weeks.
“There were a lot more smiles on their faces (Tuesday) night.”
Cragoe showed no signs of rust in his first game in two weeks.
“It shocked me a little because he hasn’t seen a baseball since Lovell (June 3),” Borders said. “Everything he hit was hard. It looked like he’s been playing for two weeks.” Cory Heny was 6-for-10 with four RBIs and four runs scored.
Zander Andreasen was 5-for-6, drove in five runs and scored twice as he bumped his team-high on-base percentage to .711.
The Pioneers’s offense helped the pitching perform more efficiently than it has in recent games by giving Powell a lead in all but the very first inning played against Douglas.
Powell’s Matt Brown and Carson Asher each tossed complete games, allowing the Pioneers to rest their arms, which they had been going through at a rapid rate during the weekend’s Buffalo Wild Wings Tournament in Billings, Mont.
“That was huge for us,” Borders said.
After Brown’s outing, Borders told Asher, who was leaving for a family vacation following the game, “I don’t care what you do, you’re not coming out of this game tonight.
“And he just stayed in there like a champ.”
Brown allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits, four walks and four strikeouts in game 1. Brown was tagged for his second home run of the season when 2013 All-State Bearcat Marvin Malone hit a three-run shot in the bottom of the first.
Brown settled down after the first and gave up just five hits over the next six innings.
“I think the biggest thing about that was we’ve been down all year so they’ve learned to fight back a little,” Borders said. “We came back and put five on them.”
Borders said both pitchers were helped by run support and an improved defense with Cragoe at second in the opener and first base in the second game.
“They weren’t trying to force stuff,” Borders said. “They could throw different pitches and not worry if the defense was backing them up.”
Only four of Douglas’ eight runs were credited to Powell’s game 2 starter, Carson Asher. In just his third career American Legion start, Asher gave up 10 hits and seven walks while striking out seven to pick up his first win.
The Pioneers committed three errors in game 1 and another four in game 2 but Borders said the defense played better than the stats show.
“They weren’t the typical infield errors that give up two or three runs,” he said. “They let runners go from second to third. They weren’t the type of errors that have been hurting us.”
Jared Wantulok made his only hit of the doubleheader count early in game 2. After a Grady Sanders single Wantulok launched an 0-1 pitch over the center-field fence for his first home run of the season.
Wantulok’s blast came two plays after Cragoe hit a two-run shot of his own and helped extend Powell’s lead from 2-1 to 6-1.
“They were in the same inning. It was a big lift,” Borders said.
Brendon Phister was 4-for-7 with two stolen bases and five runs scored in the series.
Asher backed up his pitching with hot hitting. He went 2-for-4 with a walk, four RBIs and two runs scored while batting ninth.
Ezra Andreasen was 1-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored in game 1. He did not play in game 2.
Ty Whiteman walked three times in game 1 and was brought home for runs each time. He also stole a base.
Matt Brown hit a single, walked twice and scored two runs in game 2, and scored after reaching on a fielder’s choice in the second inning of game 1.
The Pioneers played two more games against the Casper Cutthroats beginning at 1 p.m. Wednesday, and if they get repeat performances from their starters (Heny and Whiteman) they will be in good shape for this weekend’s Heavy Metal Baseball Tournament back in Powell.
Eight teams, plus the Pioneers, will be in Powell this weekend for the three-day tournament.
Wyoming teams from Casper, Douglas, Riverton, Cody and Lovell will join Montana teams from Billings (Halos and Angels) and Miles City.
The Pioneers open the tournament with a non-conference game against Lovell at 10 a.m. Friday. Powell will come back for a 7 p.m. nightcap against Miles City.
Powell will then play Casper on Saturday night to conclude pool play. Sunday’s opponent will be determined following pool play.
Powell can’t completely empty the tank at the tournament, however, as the squad will have only two days of rest before a critical conference doubleheader at Cody Wednesday evening.
Borders said he will use Heny and Whiteman sparingly, if at all, this weekend so they are fully rested before facing the Cubs.