Nearly every player from last season’s Powell Pioneers team returns to the diamond this year, with the ball club setting high goals for a talented roster in a season that looks to be …
Nearly every player from last season’s Powell Pioneers team returns to the diamond this year, with the ball club setting high goals for a talented roster in a season that looks to be challenging from the start.
Leading the way for the Pioneers will be two-time A West Pitcher of the Year Brock Johnson, who finished with a 3.82 ERA and 32 strikeouts in the league season last year. Overall he finished 7-5 in 15 starts with a 2.86 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 78 1/3 innings.
Johnson was also named first-team All-State the past two years.
Alongside Johnson was the A West Co-Player of the Year in Trey Stenerson, who expects to continue growing after an improved 2022 season.
Stenerson finished last year with a .365 batting average, 11 home runs and 68 RBIs for the Pioneers.
Stenerson was also named first-team All-State last season after being named to the second team in 2021.
Two more Pioneers, Jhett Schwahn and Cade Queen, were named All-State last year and return alongside Stenerson and Johnson for their junior seasons.
Powell also had three more players named to the A West All-Conference team last year in Aiden Greenwald, Aidan Wantulok and Ethan Welch. All three will suit up again this year.
Powell finished with a 34-22-1 record last year, falling just short of the A state championship game after a blown lead to Casper and a loss to Cody after working its way through the consolation bracket.
Leading the Pioneers once again this season will be manager Jason Borders, who returned to coach Powell last year after a stint in Lovell.
“They know what they want, they want to be in that state championship game at the end of the season,” Borders said. “We have been going since January and they have been working hard. Everybody is pushing each other and it’s nice to have some veterans that have been playing varsity since seventh or eighth grade. You don’t get that from many teams, they’ve been through it and they know what it takes.”
Borders returned for a successful first year last year, and was named the A West District Manager of the Year for his efforts.
Powell is also expected to strengthen its efforts this year with the return of Kolt Flores, who tore his ACL prior to last season but was an All-Conference selection the season prior after leading the Pioneers in innings pitched.
“We get Kolt back from his torn ACL, he is at college right now and we will get him back at the end of May,” Borders said.
Also returning from injury for Powell will be Ryan Cordes, who was injured on a diving effort in the middle of June last year and missed the final month and a half of the season.
A deeper pitching rotation stretching out to eight or nine arms is expected from the Pioneers this year. The team fell short late in the season as errors caught up to the team in the state tournament after a midseason turnaround saw the Pioneers win 17 of their last 24 games.
“We had a good run last year,” Borders said. “At state we had a couple things go the wrong way for us, but I think that was a mental thing.”
He said he expects this team to take the next step this season, and is planning to challenge them with a difficult schedule that should result in more than 60 games played over the next four months.
That will involve difficult contests with teams from Montana, and even include a trip to the AA Gillette Drube Tournament at the end of May.
The season kicks off this Sunday, when Powell is set to host the Sheridan Troopers, a AA program that finished with a 42-13 record last season.
The game was originally scheduled to take place in Sheridan, but snow still on the field forced the game to be moved to Powell.Games will be at noon and 2 p.m.
The Pioneers will kick off the season with a fundraiser on Saturday at Heart Mountain Hall at the Park County Fairgrounds.
Doors for the event open at 4 p.m. and dinner starts at 5 p.m.
It will include auction items including a buffalo hunt as the marquis prize. Single tickets cost $15, couples can get in at $25 and a family up to six can get in for $50.
Borders said tickets can be purchased at the door and this serves as the primary fundraiser for the Pioneers season.