Powell (15-22, 3-3 Northwest) was within two games of a .500 record before heading north for the four-day, 11-team tourney.
“This late in the year you don’t want to go up there and get goosed five games,” said Pioneers manager Jason Borders.
Borders said it was a “rough weekend,” not because his team did poorly, but because he knows it’s capable of much more.
“It looks terrible 0-5 ... but I think we can get there,” Borders said. “I honestly believe with the time we have left we can make some adjustments and get things turned around.
“I think they’re good enough,” Borders said. “I keep telling them they’re good enough.”
The Pioneers — particularly the offense — weren’t good enough in Montana. Powell had just two extra base hits (both home runs) while scoring an average of 2.6 runs over their five games at the tournament, a far cry from the 25 scored in two wins against Glendive July 7.
Powell manager Jason Borders said wood bats, a thinned lineup and poor strategy in the batter’s box led to the light-hitting performance.
Zander and Ezra Andreasen were in Utah, Brendon Phister missed two of the five games due to family obligations and Bryce Wright had one surprise at bat as he recovers from injury.
But Borders doesn’t want to make excuses. He wants to see his bench excel when it gets a chance to start.
“You take those guys out of our lineup and we’re not that deep,” Borders said. “When somebody’s gone you need to step up and I didn’t necessarily see it.”
But even Powell’s stalwarts were unable to put up their usual gaudy numbers.
“Cory (Heny) struggled a little bit this weekend,” Borders said.
The manager said the offensive issues don’t fall on any one individual, but are team wide.
“A lot of our problem is bad approaches again,” he said.
The Pioneers’ first game was also its highest-scoring, but it came in a 7-6 loss to the Missoula Prospects in Laurel.
A 4-4 tie was broken by Matt Sweet’s sacrifice bunt in the top of the sixth but the Prospects scored three in the bottom half of the inning to take its only lead of the game.
Errors on starting pitcher Carson Asher and then reliever Ty Whiteman, along with a Missoula single, loaded the bases for the Prospects.
Whiteman induced a groundout to second base that scored Missoula’s tying run, which was followed by a two-run single that gave Missoula the go-ahead and winning runs.
Powell had the makings of a two-out rally but could plate only one run in the top of the seventh.
With two down, catcher Jared Wantulok reached on an error and was pushed to second by Brendon Phister’s line drive single.
Bryce Wright, pinch-hitting for first baseman Matt Brown, hit a liner to right field that drove in Wantulok. Phister represented the tying run on third base but Teagan Cordes struck out swinging on four pitches.
Seven Pioneers recorded a hit (all singles) against Missoula.
Asher went five innings and gave up six runs (two earned) on seven hits, a walk and three strikeouts. Whiteman allowed one run on as many hits in his inning of work.
Thursday saw things go from bad to worse.
The Billings Halos have had Powell’s number all season, and on Saturday afternoon that number was zero.
The Halos shut out Powell 9-0 in Billings in a five-inning game in which the Pioneers managed only one hit and two baserunners.
Asher broke up Billings pitcher Brady Derheim’s no-hit bid with a fifth-inning single. Asher was hit by a pitch to lead off the third inning and advanced to second and third on consecutive groundouts but was left stranded 90 feet from home.
The Pioneers didn’t draw a walk and struck out only three times.
“I was happy we didn’t strike out a ton against him, we put the ball in play,” Borders said. ““He does a good job, that kid’s a stud.”
Brown started on the hill for Powell and allowed nine runs on eight hits, six walks and one strikeout.
Billings scored all of its runs in the first two innings. Brown then settled down and allowed no runs on two hits and two walks in the third and fourth innings.
Powell grabbed a first-inning lead against the Jackson Giants (AA) Friday afternoon in Billings but soon fell behind and squandered a late-game comeback opportunity in the 5-1 loss.
The Pioneers loaded the bases with one out in the sixth inning but left every runner aboard as Wantulok struck out swinging and Phister popped out to first base to end the inning.
Phister was 2-for-3 and drove in Powell’s only run with an RBI single in the first inning that scored Hayden Cragoe. Cragoe was 2-for-3, Grady Sanders was 1-for-2 and hit by a pitch and Heny was 1-for-3.
Sweet pitched six innings and gave up just four hits in the Pioneers loss. He had four walks and a strikeout while being credited with only one of Missoula’s five runs.
The pain of Saturday’s loss might have been the most immediate.
Powell was sent off Billings’ field as the Billings Blue Jays celebrated a walk-off 5-4 victory.
A one-out single off Heny drove in the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Two home runs in the fourth pulled the Pioneers back in the game after they gave up three runs in the opening inning.
Cragoe led off with a solo shot and Sanders hit a two-run blast two batters later.
Powell broke the 3-3 tie in the top of the sixth when Asher grounded out to first base, giving Sanders enough time to get home from third. The lead was short-lived, however, as the Blue Jays knotted things up in their half of the inning with a two-out RBI single off a 3-2 count.
Sanders was the only Pioneer with multiple hits. He drove in two runs with his homer and scored a pair as well.
Heny was 0-for-3 and failed to reach base for only the sixth time all season.
Heny gave up five runs (two earned) on five hits, six walks and four strikeouts. Only half of Heny’s 136 pitches went for strikes.
Sunday’s tournament finale was an appropriate, if not uplifting, ending to a miserable weekend of baseball.
The Pioneers were held to two base runners and the Laramie Rangers scored seven runs in the fifth inning to put the game far out of Powell’s reach.
Powell’s defense did it no favors in Billings Sunday as it committed six errors.
Cragoe hit a single in Powell’s first at-bat of the game and Heny followed with a walk. Asher’s groundball to shortstop two batters later was misplayed and Cragoe came around to score. The Pioneers proceeded to go down in order in the final four innings.
Only Cragoe recorded an out to the outfield, a flyout to center in the third inning. The Pioneers struck out eight times as the offense struggled to get the ball out of the infield.
Powell returns home for a doubleheader beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday against Cody. The final conference games of the season will have no bearing on the Northwest Division, which Cody long since clinched.
The Pioneers play Miles City at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Miles City will take on Cody at 5:30 p.m. both days at Pioneers Stadium.
|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|
|10||Billings Halos||9-0 L|
|12||Billings Blue Jays||5-4 L|
|Overall record: 15-22; Conference: 3-3|