“I just can’t say enough about the way those kids stepped up and pitched this weekend,” said Pioneers coach Mike Jameson. “You expect Jake Beuster to come out and give you a solid outing, but to have those other guys step out and throw the way they did was a pleasant surprise.”
The Pioneers began the tournament with a 9-0 shutout of Riverton as Olie Olson picked up a win on the hill, allowing just one hit. Hayden Cragoe followed, making his Legion pitching debut, and delivered a no-hitter against Rawlins, spurring the Pioneers to a 13-1 victory. On Saturday, Josh Cragoe picked up a 2-1 win over the Billings Halos. Powell would later add a 13-0 shutout of Green River as Frankie Vogt surrendered just a fourth-inning base hit.
Powell wrapped up the tournament title on Sunday with a 2-0 win over Jackson. Beuster gave up four hits and fanned nine as Powell stretched its winning streak to seven games.
“All weekend, we stressed to our pitchers to not be afraid to pitch to contact,” said Jameson. “With wood bats, you don’t have to worry as much about guys lifting fly balls and you can trust your defense.”
While the team’s pitching performance captured the most attention from the weekend, the Pioneers also received some clutch performances at the plate.
Against Riverton, Seth Gilmore went 2-for-3 at the plate with three RBIs. Tyler England added a double and a triple as part of a 2-for-3 day.
“Once we got things going, we just kind of exploded,” Jameson said. “We got four runs in the third and then kept adding to it. When you start putting runs up in a wood bat tournament, it changes the aspect of the game. Nine runs in a wood bat game is usually a pretty safe number.”
Jameson noted Olson was just inches from a no-hitter.
“One foot this way or that way on the ball they hit and he’s got a no-hitter,” Jameson said. “That’s just baseball.”
While Olson missed his no-hitter, Hayden Cragoe did not as Rawlins’ lone run against Powell came via a pair of walks and two wild pitches.
Cragoe also helped his own cause with a 2-for-3 performance at the plate that included an RBI. England was 4-for-4 in his final game before leaving the team for a week to play in Wyoming’s Shrine Bowl football game this weekend. England had two triples and a double with two RBIs.
Gilmore added a 3-for-4 performance with three RBIs. Olson also drove in three.
Against the Halos, Powell trailed 1-0 going into the sixth inning. Vogt doubled off the base of the wall and scored to tie the contest. In the seventh, the Pioneers scored the winning run when Beuster drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the inning.
“It’s good to have those games where you have to fight to the end,” Jameson said. “It’s nice to have blowouts, but you also need the experience that comes from being in a tight game.”
Powell’s afternoon game against Green River fell back into the blowout category. Olie Olson’s walk-off grand slam was part of a 2-for-4, five-RBI game. There was little doubt where the ball was headed when it left Olson’s bat.
“He just crushed it to straight center,” Jameson said. “There was no doubt about it. Hopefully doing that with a wood bat will give these guys confidence that they don’t have to pull everything to hit it long.”
Gilmore added a 2-for-3 performance with a triple and two RBIs. Garrett Czapla was 2-for-2 with an RBI.
The long ball figured prominently in Powell’s final win of the weekend as well. Vogt’s two-run shot to left field in the sixth inning provided the only runs in a 2-0 victory over Jackson.
“It didn’t really surprise me,” Jameson said of the shot from Vogt, who was playing Babe Ruth ball last summer. “He’s a good hitter and he swings hard when he’s up there. He did a good job of keeping his hands back on an off-speed pitch and got it. He’ll be a great hitter, we just want him to bulk up a little bit.”
Beuster lowered his season ERA to 1.19 after nearly 23 innings of work this season. He struck out nine in the victory.
The Pioneers, now 9-4 on the year, are scheduled to play their home opener today (Tuesday) against the Sheridan Troopers. First pitch in the afternoon doubleheader is scheduled for 1 p.m.
This will mark the third time this season Powell has attempted to play its home opener. The team was rained out of its first two home doubleheader dates in May.
The Pioneers will also travel to Billings this weekend to participate in the Aaron’s Tournament. Games against Great Falls, Helena and the Billings Cardinals are on tap for that event.