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July 14, 2011 9:29 am

Pioneers clinch conference title

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Late rallies lift team

It wasn’t pretty at times, but the Powell Pioneers clinched the Northwest conference title on Tuesday night with an 18-15, 16-13 doubleheader sweep. Offense ruled the evening as the wind and a short outfield fence spelled doom for fans of pitching duels.

“It just seems like the ball flies out of there any time,” said Pioneer coach Mike Jameson. “You throw in a wind like we had last night and there are going to be a few runs scored.”

Coming into the evening, the Pioneers needed to win just once to ensure themselves of the No. 1 seed at the District Tournament in Gillette next week. For much of Tuesday’s early game, it appeared Powell fans might have to wait until the nightcap to pick up that victory.

After plating a pair of runs in the first inning, Powell surrendered three runs in the bottom half of the inning as Cody connected off Pioneer starter Jake Beuster for four consecutive base hits.

Powell regained the lead in the top of the fourth inning. Olie Olson’s grand slam home run emptied the Pioneers’ dugout and appeared to provide a pick-me-up.

The momentum proved to be short-lived. Cody again responded, delivering a counterpunch that knotted the scoreboard at 8-8. One inning later, the Cubs chased Beuster from the mound during a four-run inning that gave Cody the lead.

While Beuster endured an off night on the hill, he was red-hot with the bat. His two-run home run, Beuster’s first homer of the summer, pulled Powell within a run in the sixth inning. A solo shot by Cody in the bottom half of the frame left the Pioneers on the verge of dropping their first conference contest in three seasons, trailing by two as the team stepped up for its final at-bat.

Colt Nix drew a leadoff walk. Josh Cragoe followed with a fly ball to right that was misplayed by the Cubs’ outfield, allowing him to reach base safely. Tyler England followed with a line drive to second that enabled Cody to turn a double play when Nix was unable to return to second in time to avoid being doubled up.

Down to their final out, the Pioneers pulled within a run on Olson’s RBI single. Seth Gilmore followed with an RBI single to tie the game after fouling off a pair of two-strike offerings. Another Cody error extended the inning, allowing Powell to build a three-run cushion as Justin Lynn connected for a double and Beuster added an RBI single.

Gilmore came on to throw the bottom of the seventh, ending the game on a double play to notch his fourth save of the summer.

Three different Cody players were injured at some point during the contest, including the Cubs’ starting pitcher, who took a grazing shot from a ball batted back through the middle before being smoked in the lower back by a line drive off the bat of Josh Cragoe one inning later. Other play stoppages included time for a player shaken up on a diving play on the infield and another for a dislocated finger suffered on a dive back to third base.

The Pioneers appeared on their way to a lopsided win in Tuesday’s late contest. Powell jumped out to a 12-run lead before pitching fell apart and allowed Cody to eliminate the lead.

“I don’t know what happened,” Jameson said of the meltdown. “I guess we just wanted to play a little more baseball. Cody swings the bat well and they were putting the ball in play against us.”

Both Hayden Cragoe and Josh Cragoe homered in the nightcap. Josh Cragoe finished the late game 4-for-5 at the plate with four runs scored. In addition to taking the ball out of the yard, the team’s lead-off hitter also doubled twice. Hayden Cragoe was 2-for-5 with three runs scored.

Jameson also singled out Beuster, 7-for-9 in the two games combined, and Justin Lynn, 6-for-9 combined, for their batting.

The wins lift Powell to 28-15 this summer. The Pioneers are 10-0 in conference play. The team was informed Wednesday morning that its scheduled Friday doubleheader against Rawlins has been canceled. The Pioneers will play their final regular season games on Sunday when the team hosts Lovell in a conference doubleheader originally rained out back in May. First pitch in game 1 is scheduled for 5 p.m.

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