Late-inning surge dooms Pioneers

11-run 7th inning closes door on Powell

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Despite a solid six innings on the mound by starting pitcher Colin Queen, the Powell Pioneers baseball team once again found themselves on the wrong side of a double-digit inning, falling to the Casper Drillers 16-3 Friday night at Ed Lynn Memorial Field.

In what’s become almost the norm for the young team this season, Powell trailed by just two runs at 5-3 as the game entered the seventh inning; then the Drillers exploded for 11 runs. Six different Casper players recorded at least one RBI during the inning, turning what began as an evenly-matched contest into a game cut short by the 10-run mercy rule.

“I don’t think we played very good that game, but there were some bright spots,” said Pioneers head coach Joe Cates. “We misread some balls in the outfield, we were overthrowing our cuts, giving them extra bases on throws. We were just reacting to things, rather than understanding what we should have been doing. That kind of hurt us, I think.”

After shutting down Casper in the top of the first inning, Powell took the early lead in the bottom half. Helping his own cause at the plate, starting pitcher Queen singled to lead off the inning, later scoring on a Tyler Feller single to give Powell a 1-0 lead.

The Drillers answered with a run of their own in the second to tie the game at 1-1, as Casper’s Micah Carr scored on a single by teammate Justin Wicks. After a three-up, three-down start to the third, Powell would retake the lead in the bottom of the inning, after a throwing error turned an infield single by Garrett Stutzman into a double. Stutzman advanced to third on a sacrifice by Kobe Ostermiller, and would score on another throwing error to give Powell the lead at 2-1.

“We continue to swing the bat pretty well,” Cates said. “We’re doing a nice job of seeing the ball and putting it in play.”

Queen shut down Casper in the fourth, striking out two in the inning. Cameron Wentz and Nate Brown both singled in the bottom of the fourth, but the Pioneers were unable to capitalize. Casper took the lead for good with three runs in the top of the fifth. The Pioneers answered with a run in the bottom of the fifth on Feller’s second RBI of the game, and heading into the later innings, Powell appeared to be in good shape.

After allowing a run in the top of the sixth that increased Casper’s lead to 5-3, Cates brought in Nate Brown in relief for Queen to start the seventh. Brown walked the first batter he faced and hit the second, setting the tone for an inning the Pioneers would just as soon forget. Casper’s next batter doubled to empty the bases, and Brown got the quick hook in favor of Mason Marchant.

“I didn’t want to see that with our pitching situation, I wanted to get out of it as quickly as we could,” Cates said. “I didn’t want it to be a merry-go-round. Marchant threw strikes, but the momentum was already there.”

The Drillers recorded eight hits in the inning, punctuated by Casper leadoff hitter Harrison Taubert stealing home with the Drillers holding an 11-run lead.

“Hitting is contagious, and that’s what Casper did — they hit the ball, put it in play. But Marchant came in and pounded the zone. I couldn’t be too upset with him for how he did, he came into a rough situation,” Cates said.

The Pioneers pounded out eight hits on the game, led by a 2-for-3, two-RBI performance from Feller. Queen, Jesse Brown, Nate Brown, Wentz, Reece Hackenberg and Stutzman each had a hit apiece.

On the mound, Queen threw 83 pitches in six innings, giving up eight hits and five runs, three earned, and striking out four. Brown gave up one hit and three runs, and Marchant allowed seven hits and eight runs, striking out one.

The Pioneers will look to get back on track tonight, traveling to Lovell for a doubleheader against the Mustangs. Cates said he’d like to see the Pioneers get back in the win column, but Lovell will prove a tough test.

“Lovell’s a good team,” Cates said. “We’ll see how we do. We’re capable of winning ball games. It’s just a matter of putting it all together.”

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