Cordes had hit a home run, the first of his American Legion career. He slowed to a trot and rounded third with a smile that he held for as long as his left-field fly.
It was the first of three homers for the Pioneers as they beat the Glendive Blue Devils 16-10 and 9-3 in an afternoon doubleheader Monday in Powell.
Third baseman Grady Sanders hit his team-leading fourth home run when he launched a a two-run shot in the fourth inning of game 1 and starting pitcher Cory Heny led off the bottom half of the first inning with a solo home run in game 2.
The pair of victories brought Powell’s overall record to 15-17 (3-3 Northwest) and showed that the Pioneers’ bats are capable of posting plenty of crooked numbers.
But Powell manager Jason Borders is tempering his excitement about the Pioneers’ two-game slugfest.
“I hope it’s the sign of things to come but you never know,” Borders said Wednesday morning. “Sometimes we’re seeing the ball like a basketball and sometimes we’re seeing a golf ball.”
Consistency hasn’t been Powell’s strong suit this season but Borders said unpredictability could be an asset in the district and state tournaments.
“If we get hot at the right time we can really ruin some seasons,” Borders said. “If we go out and hit the ball like we’re capable of we’ll be dangerous.”
The Pioneers will have to bring the danger as an underdog. Cody swept Lovell in Cowley Tuesday night to clinch the Northwest Division. The Pioneers are now playing to secure a second seed in the state tournament.
The good news is that the Pioneers won’t have to play themselves.
“I always hated seeing teams like this in tournaments because you never know what you’re going to get,” he said.
Powell got everything it could ask for out of its offense Monday.
The Pioneers raked 24 hits over two games and played strong defense behind their pitchers to limit Glendive in the top half of innings.
Powell fell behind 5-1 after the top of the third but scored six in the bottom of the inning to take the lead. Powell never trailed again.
Cordes’ home run led off Powell’s comeback.
“The way he’s been swinging the bat the last week or two, I could kind of see it coming,” Borders said of Cordes’ power. “I know he can hit the ball hard. He’s got some pop in his bat.”
Second baseman Ezra Andreasen went 3-for-4, including a two-run single in the third, for three RBIs and a run scored.
Hayden Cragoe was 2-for-3 with two walks and four runs scored. He’s now hitting .436 with a .520 on-base percentage and .624 slugging percentage in 20 games.
Cragoe, who’s moved between first base, second base and left field as his throwing shoulder recuperates, was back at shortstop against the Blue Devils. The return to his normal position might not mean Cragoe’s shoulder is back to full strength, but Borders said his throws, including one from deep in the hole, looked as good as ever.
“I think he can handle it,” Borders said. “Maybe he can do that four or five times a game, but not 80 or 90 times a game.”
In other words, don’t expect to see Cragoe on the mound anytime soon.
Catcher Jared Wantulok was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a pair of walks.
Heny was 2-for-3 with a sac fly and three runs scored in game 1. He also walked twice and stole two bases. Heny has played in all 32 games for the Pioneers and is hitting .436/.520/.624.
Brendon Phister, Dillon Nix (pinch runner), Cragoe and Sanders each stole a bag as well.
Ty Whiteman wasn’t at his best, though he was credited with the win in a game 1 start that raised his season ERA from 3.44 to 4.20. Whiteman gave up nine runs (seven earned) on nine hits, five walks and two strikeouts.
He was pulled as arm soreness set in after 82 pitches.
“Some nights you just don’t have it,” Borders said. “He didn’t have the control like he normally does with his curveball. But I’m not worried about it.”
Borders said Whiteman’s arm won’t cause him to skip a start.
Heny was steadier on the mound in game 2, pitching a complete game while the Powell defense committed only one error behind him. He allowed three runs on eight hits, four walks and five strikeouts. His ERA sits at 2.56 with a 1.46 WHiP.
Heny did his part at the plate, too, going 3-for-4, including his first inning home run. He also scored three runs.
Carson Asher was 2-for-3 with an RBI double in the second inning and two runs scored.
Phister was 2-for-3 with a run scored and Cordes was 1-for-2 with a walk, RBI and two runs scored.
Powell’s performance at this weekend’s tournament in Billings could determine whether the Pioneers that played Monday night are for real or if it was an aberration.
Borders recalled another time his team swung hot bats only to holster them come that weekend’s tourney.
“That Douglas/Casper road trip where we hit the [heck] out of the ball all week, then we came back for our tournament and didn’t hit at all,” Borders said.
Sometimes the Pioneers’ season looks to be headed for a modest double, but there’s always a chance they will hit one out.
The Pioneers will split time between Laurel and Billings, Mont., this weekend at the Northwest Woodbat Championship.
Powell will open against the Missoula Prospects at 1 p.m. today (Thursday) in Laurel followed by a 4 p.m. matchup with the Billings Halos in Billings.
Powell has just one game on Friday, a 4 p.m. matchup against the Jackson Giants AA club in Billings.
The Pioneers finish pool play against the Billings Blue Jays at 1 p.m. Saturday in Billings.
The championship game will be played at 4 p.m. Sunday in Billings.
Powell will be without both Zander and Ezra Andreasen, who will be in Utah. Their absence continues the team’s constantly fluctuating lineups.
“I’ll still be juggling all weekend,” Border said.
Pitcher and first baseman Matt Brown injured his back while fielding a line drive hit back to the mound Monday, and first baseman Bryce Wright is still waiting to hear about the status of his injured knee.
The manager hopes to have his lineup and defense settled come district and state tournament time.
|Powell Pioneers 2014|
|18||Sheridan||12-5 L / 12-2 L|
|31||Billings Angels||10-8 W|
|3||Lovell||12-0 W / 10-1 W|
|7||Billings Halos||3-0 L / 6-2 L|
|10||Miles City||5-4 L / 9-2 L|
|13||Billings Blue Jays||10-0 L|
|14||Billings Cardinals||18-1 L|
|17||Douglas||11-5 W / 20-8 W|
|18||Casper Drillers||13-1 W / 17-16 L|
|20||Miles City||10-1 L|
|21||Casper Drillers||13-3 W|
|25||Cody||11-3 L / 15-2 L|
|26||Lovell||7-4 W / 6-5 L|
|28||Grand Junction||4-2 W|
|28||Thunder Ridge||26-0 W|
|29||Billings Halos||12-2 L|
|7||Glendive||16-10 W / 9-3 W|
|Overall record: 15-17; Conference: 3-3|