Last year, the Powell Pioneers didn’t pick up their first win until the second month of the season.
This year, however, the Pioneers wasted no time in taking their first two victories — sweeping the Billings Angels 7-5 and 4-3 in Saturday’s home-opening double-header.
“It turned out to be a really good weekend,” said Pioneers head coach Joe Cates. “We struggled a bit at first, finding the strike zone. But we got things going.”
The Pioneers got off to a slow start in the early game, spotting Billings a 5-0 lead before rallying.
Tyler Feller got the start on the hill for Powell, and “struggled a bit” in giving up those runs while pitching three innings and throwing roughly 70 pitches, Cates said.
“But he bounced back,” Cates said of Feller, adding, “it’s going to take time.”
Cameron Wentz came on in relief for Feller, with the plan that he’d pitch just long enough to get another arm warmed up.
“Wentz hadn’t thrown very much at all, so I was hoping he’d just get me an inning to get someone else hot,” Cates said. “But he came in and just shut the door. He threw great.”
Wentz stayed in the game and picked up the win, shutting out the Angels over the last four innings while
throwing 52 pitches. The bats came alive as well, scoring two runs in the fourth, three in the fifth and two in the sixth. Ryley Meyer, Kobe Ostermiller and Noah Blough had solid games at the plate as the Pioneers fought back for the 7-5 win.
“We kept putting the ball in play, and eventually they started to drop and things started to roll our way,” Cates said. “Our small game was key. We bunted a couple of guys to move guys over, with Colin Queen bunting after a lead-off single and Jesse Brown bunts for a single to load the bases and no outs. And then things started to roll for us.”
The Pioneers only struck out twice for the entire game
The team rolled that momentum into the second game, taking an early lead and holding on for the 4-3 win. Colin Queen started on the mound, pitching five solid innings before running out of steam.
“Colin [Queen] pitched good; he kept them scoreless through five innings,” Cates said.
When Queen gave up his first runs in the sixth, the Pioneers summoned Nate Brown in relief.
“Nate threw great,” Cates said. “He was who I was going to bring in during the first game, so he was already warm and good to go. He came in and shut the door.”
The bats continued to stay hot, and Cates said that, on the day, there may have been just four strikeouts in about 70 at-bats for the Pioneers.
“The guys are seeing the ball really well,” Cates said. “We’ve been doing a lot of hitting in practice, a lot of simulated live stuff, game-type situations.”
The team’s home debut had been delayed, as a home-opening doubleheader against Belgrade was canceled earlier this month due to weather.
“This was a big weekend for us,” Cates said of the wins against Billings. “We’re gaining more and more confidence at the plate, and our defense is playing really well, especially this early in the season. The errors we had were aggressive errors, charging the ball. We’re being aggressive.”
He added that the Pioneers “played baseball the way it should be played, and it’s nice to see that.”
The Powell squad is on the road Saturday, opening up conference play at Riverton. Gametime is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.