With three straight wins, the Powell Little League Majors All-Stars took home the title of District 1 champs, highlighted by a 6-2 win over Big Horn in Saturday’s championship game in Lovell.
And what a game it was. After falling behind 1-0 in the first inning, Powell battled back behind strong hitting and a stellar performance on the mound by pitcher Cade Queen. The young right-hander threw a complete game and was virtually unhittable from the third inning on as the All-Stars clinched the championship.
Powell reached the title game by way of an 11-2 rout of Lander and a 6-2 win over cross-county rival Cody.
“These kids have worked extremely hard, and they’ve really come together as a team,” Powell coach Heath Worstell said. “What a lot of people don’t realize is this group of kids right here have only played eight games together. They’ve really come together as a unit, and I can’t be more proud of them. We’ve beat some of the top teams we weren’t expected to beat, and the kids just pulled through and did their jobs.”
After an uneventful first at-bat, Powell gave up a run to Big Horn in the bottom of the first, marking the only time the All-Stars trailed in the entire tournament. The lead wouldn’t last.
“We just told the guys to stay focused,” Worstell said of giving up the lead to Big Horn. “We’ve preached and preached to these kids that when you get down, you just have to keep your heads up and play harder.”
Powell tied the game in the top of the second on an RBI double by Treysan Norris that scored Queen. With two outs in the top of the third, Brock Johnson singled to right field to put a runner on. Continuing to help his own cause at the plate, Queen doubled to left, scoring Johnson and giving Powell a 2-1 lead. Big Horn brought the game back to even with a run in the bottom of the third, scoring what would be their final run of the game.
Powell re-took the lead for good in the top of the fourth. Jacob Gibson and Rayce Degraffenreid both singled, putting two men on for Ethan Welch. Welch singled to left, scoring Dalton Wortsell, who was pinch-running for Gibson, and giving Powell a 3-2 lead. Alex DeBoer and Jacob Orr also had hits in the inning.
Powell scored twice more in the top of the fifth, beginning with a single by Jhett Schwahn. That was followed by a Brody Payne walk, putting runners at first and second for Degraffenreid. Degraffenreid singled to left, but an error on the throw in allowed him to reach second while Schwahn scored. Padding his RBI total for the game, Welch then singled in Payne, making the game 5-2.
In the final, sixth inning, Johnson got things started with a double. Schwahn followed with a hard shot that the second baseman misplayed, scoring Johnson to make the game 6-2. That score would be the final as Big Horn went three up, three down in their last at-bats, and just like that, the Powell All-Stars were District 1 champs.
After giving up a couple of runs early, Queen was dialed in on the mound for Powell, throwing just 72 pitches in six innings of work. He faced just three batters in the fourth, four batters in the fifth and three in the sixth after Big Horn’s final run in the third.
“Any time you have someone like Cade Queen on the mound, you have a sense of security,” Worstell said. “He’s an outstanding athlete and an outstanding baseball player. He goes at it with his whole heart.”
With the state tournament beginning Wednesday in Powell, the All-Stars won’t have a lot of time to rest on their laurels. But that’s exactly how the team wants it.
“I’m proud we won district,” said utility infielder Alex DeBoer. “But now I’m focused on winning state.”
The All-Stars will have their hands full during the state tournament, especially with defending state champion Gillette, which won the District 2 title over the weekend. Gillette made short work of its competition at district, going 4-0 and outscoring its opponents 86-1.
But if Powell comes up short at state, lack of heart won’t be the reason.
“I’ve told them that the difference between a good athlete and a great one are the ones that can overcome their mistakes, and these kids have done it,” Worstell said. “When they’re down, they stick together and pull each other up. They’re just an awesome, awesome group of boys.”