Oh so close

Posted 8/12/10

“I think we got a little worn out,” said Pioneers center fielder Grant Geiser. “We played some good ball, but we played a lot of games.”

Both of the Pioneers tournament losses in Bozeman came at the hands of the Pilots. …

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Oh so close


{gallery}08_12_10/pioneers{/gallery}Scotty Jameson watches the ball sail toward home plate during championship game action for the 2010 regional runner-up Powell Pioneers. Tribune photo by Ben Wetzel Ashland fights off Powell rally to win title After successfully fighting off elimination in four consecutive games at the 2010 Northwest Class A regional tournament in Bozeman, Mont., the Powell Pioneers fell 12-9 to the Ashland, Ore., Pilots in the championship game. It marked Powell's second loss of the tournament to the Oregon state champions.

“I think we got a little worn out,” said Pioneers center fielder Grant Geiser. “We played some good ball, but we played a lot of games.”

Both of the Pioneers tournament losses in Bozeman came at the hands of the Pilots. After losing their first tournament game by a 15-1 final count, Powell fought back with wins of 9-0 over Olympic, Wash.; 11-7 over Blacksmith Fork, Utah; 14-5 over Bonneville, Idaho, and 8-5 over Laurel, Mont., to earn a championship game rematch against the Pilots.

Tuesday's title game marked the first time in the 25-year history of the NWCART tournament that a Wyoming team had advanced to the championship game.

After not scoring until the seventh inning in its first contest against Ashland, the Pioneers wasted little time deviating from that script. Scotty Jameson connected for a two-out single and moved to third on a double by Geiser. Auston Carter then continued the two-out hit parade with a base knock to drive home Jameson and put Powell on the scoreboard in the first inning.

Ashland touched Powell starting pitcher Josh Cragoe for three runs in the top of the second to take the lead. Cragoe helped his own cause by getting a run back in the bottom half of the inning with a sacrifice fly to score Tyler England.

Jameson took over for Cragoe on the mound to begin the third inning and Ashland's slim 3-2 lead persisted into the sixth inning. For Pioneer fans, that's when disaster struck.

With Pilot runners on first and second base and one out, a tailor-made double play ball was instead kicked for an error, loading the bases. A base hit, two hit batters, another Pioneer error and a walk later, Powell found itself trailing by an 8-2 margin.

Ashland added another run in the seventh and the Pilots clubbed a three-run home run off Jameson in the eighth to make the score 12-2. The shot prompted the Pioneers' coaching staff to pull Jameson from the hill and threatened to give Oregon its second run-rule victory of the tournament over Powell.

The Pioneers weren't about to go quietly, however.

Auston Carter opened Powell's half of the eighth inning with a base hit. The shot to the outfield marked the Pioneers' first hit in more than four innings against Ashland pitching. Colter Bostick followed with a single of his own, setting the stage for the game's most bizarre moment.

With England in the batter's box, it appeared as if the second-team all-stater was hit by a pitched ball. The home-plate umpire ruled the ball struck England's bat, rather than his forearm, prompting Powell head coach Mike Jameson to come out of the dugout to question the ruling.

A lengthy discussion ensued, eventually including the first-base umpire, efforts by England to display the ball mark on his forearm, pleas from the Pioneers' dugout to ask the third-base umpire, who may have had a better angle considering England's left-handed batting stance, and several requests for an explanation from Jameson. Eventually, Jameson made one request too many and was ejected by the home-plate umpire.

The minutes of controversy may have been precisely the spark Powell needed. The next six Pioneer batters all reached base — two after being hit by pitches —resulting in a parade of seven runs. The late-game rally pulled the Pioneers to within 12-9 on the scoreboard.

Powell would get no closer. Ashland's Brady Thomas, who struck out a total of 17 Pioneer batters in 11 innings of work in the Pilots' two games against Powell, retired the Pioneers in order in the ninth inning to clinch victory for the Oregon state champs.

Geiser, Carter, Bostick and Colt Nix each finished with two hits in the championship game. Nix, Geiser and Carter also drove home a pair of runs each.

As a team, Powell fared better at the plate their second time around against Ashland, connecting for 11 hits. The team was also guilty of an uncharacteristic 15 strikeouts in the championship game.

“We just didn't take a good approach at the plate,” said Mike Jameson.

“They did a good job of keeping us off balance,” said Geiser. “I don't know what it was.”

Following the contest, the Pioneers were awarded the regional runner-up trophy. The team also received a pennant to fly at the team's stadium proclaiming the squad the 2010 tournament runner-up.

Over the past two years, Powell has played in 11 regional tournament games. The Pioneers have amassed a 7-4 overall mark in those contests with their only losses coming to the eventual tournament champions both years.

“It has been a special group,” said Jameson, who has coached both of Powell's tournament runs.

“It's been a lot of fun,” said Geiser, who was an integral part of both tournament runs by Powell. “It was definitely nice to make it here two years in a row.”