The weather was fine, but the gameplay showed a little winter rust, as the Powell Pioneers American Legion baseball team opened its 2018 campaign Sunday. The Pioneers dropped a pair of games on the road to the Belgrade Bandits, falling 10-0 in the first game and 11-1 in the second.
“It was a decent day, the weather was OK, but we could have played a little bit better,” said Powell head coach Joe Cates. “It wasn’t a bad day, actually. We’ve got some things to work on. We’ll get where we need to be.”
Belgrade started freshman Coby Richards on the hill against the Pioneers and the pitcher did not disappoint, throwing a one-hit shutout and striking out 10 batters in five innings.
“He [Richards] was good; he was running it up there in the low 80s,” Cates said of the velocity. “He had a good slider, kept our hitters off balance. ... But that was the first time our guys had seen live pitching this season.”
Nate Brown provided the lone hit for the Pioneers, with a base knock to left center, but Cates said the Pioneers were making decent contact. Colin Queen started on the hill for Powell and pitched well for his first outing on the season, giving up six runs (five earned) on three hits, walking two.
“Colin [Queen] was throwing decent, threw strikes, was hitting the zone,” Cates said. “We made some errors behind him; we had a misread fly ball to left, kid ran a horseshoe and dropped it. We had some mental mistakes here and there, stuff I expected us to do. I expected mental mistakes, I expected physical mistakes, especially being our first time on the field.”
Freshman Mason Marchant came in for an inning of relief, giving up four runs on three hits while walking two.
“Mason [Marchant] actually did pretty well,” Cates said, adding, “I had no idea what he was capable of doing. Throwing live instead of in the bullpen is a completely different situation. He came in, threw strikes and did a great job. Definitely something we can build on.”
Powell’s bats woke up a bit in the second game, as the Pioneers were able to scatter five hits over 5 1/2 innings of play. Tyler Feller started on the mound for Powell but barely made it out of the first inning, giving up six runs on five hits before being replaced by Riley Meyer.
“Feller had a terrible first inning,” Cates said. “We brought in Riley Meyer, and they [Belgrade] scored their first run on him in the fifth. He went two or three solid innings with no runs.”
Nate Brown and Jesse Brown both saw action on the mound for the Pioneers, each giving up a pair of runs.
“Our biggest problem all weekend was just holding runners on base,” Cates said. “They ran on us like crazy.”
At the plate, Feller and Noah Blough both doubled for the Pioneers, while Jesse Brown, Nate Brown and Landon Sessions had a hit apiece. Jesse Brown also had the team’s only RBI on the day, knocking in Blough after his double.
Overall, Cates said he was pleased with the first outing of the season, despite opening the season 0-2.
“The things we need to work on, a lot of it is little stuff — stuff that’s going to improve overnight,” he said. “I think our biggest thing right now is just holding runners when we’re pitching. We need to have our infield hold runners as well. We had a couple of situations where the pitcher did an OK job of holding, but our infield did a terrible job of holding. We just need to get them on the same page to help out the pitchers.”
Powell’s home opener is scheduled for May 12 at Ed Lynn Memorial Field. The Pioneers will host Belgrade again in a twin-bill, and Cates said the team will be better prepared. Quite a few of the Powell players are currently playing other sports, and Cates said transitioning back to baseball can be difficult.
“It’s great that the kids are doing other sports, but in the same breath, it’s hurting them early right now,” Cates said, citing a couple instances where athletes who played well for the Pioneers last year had miscues over the weekend.
“It takes awhile to get back into the swing of things,” Cates said.