Down a few key players due to other athletic commitments, the Powell Pioneers American Legion baseball team struggled in a season-opening doubleheader at home against the 406 Flyers Saturday, …
Down a few key players due to other athletic commitments, the Powell Pioneers American Legion baseball team struggled in a season-opening doubleheader at home against the 406 Flyers Saturday, dropping both games.
The Flyers took advantage of several first-inning miscues by the home team, en route to a 15-1 rout. The Pioneers seemed to find their footing in the follow-up, however, before being outlasted 7-4.
It was a cold, wet start to the season, but Pioneers manager Joe Cates is confident he has a team that can contend this season, once all the pieces are in place.
“It went OK,” Cates said of the Pioneers’ opening weekend. “We had an absolutely terrible first inning: three walks, five errors, 10 unearned runs. So it did not go well that first inning. But after that, the boys settled in and we played a lot better.”
Ryley Meyer was the opening-game starter for the Pioneers, and while he didn’t have his best stuff, he didn’t have a lot of help at the start. Meyer gave up 10 runs on four hits over his two innings of work, with most of the runs unearned.
“We had a couple of errors, and I think the guys may have been trying too hard, trying to overdo it instead of what they’ve been doing all winter,” Cates said. “It’s finding that comfort zone; that first inning guys were riding that high of the first game and were overly-aggressive.”
Cates praised Meyer for hanging in there.
“He [Meyer] kept throwing strikes, he kept going after hitters,” Cates said. “From that standpoint, I was pretty happy with how he bounced back and handled adversity. He kept pounding the zone, which was good to see.”
After that disastrous first inning, the Pioneers settled in, allowing just one run over the next three innings. The game was called after the Flyers plated four more runs in the fifth — but not before Powell scored a run to avoid the shutout.
“We had the shaky first inning, but we bounced back and played fairly well defensively,” Cates said. “We played much better. You take away that first inning, and it’s closer to a 4-1 score and we continue playing into the sixth and seventh inning.”
The Pioneers got on the board in the bottom of the fifth, after a two-out double by Kobe Ostermiller put a runner in scoring position. Colin Queen singled in the next at-bat, scoring Ostermiller. Jesse Brown followed with a double and Queen advanced to third, and Powell appeared to have some momentum. It was short-lived, however, as the Flyers got the final out at the plate to end the game.
The Pioneers had four hits on the game, led by doubles from Ostermiller and Jesse Brown. Queen was 1-for-2 with a single and an RBI; Nate Brown rounded out the hitting with a single.
“It was the first time the guys had seen live pitching, and I think they took advantage of it,” Cates said. “The guys were making contact, and that was nice to see.”
On the mound, Noah Blough gave up two hits and one earned run in two innings of relief; Zane Cordes gave up four hits and two earned runs in one inning of work.
Opening-game jitters out of their system, the Pioneers were much more competitive in the follow-up, though they couldn’t overcome a quick start by the Flyers. Leading 3-2 heading into the fourth inning, the
Montana team plated four more runs to put the game out of reach, winning 7-4.
“We were in it, but we gave them a couple of stupid runs,” Cates said. “But we had some good at-bats later in the game to get us back in it.”
The Pioneers had bases loaded twice — once in the fifth and once in the sixth — but were unable to capitalize.
“We had bases loaded in the fifth, and we struck out the side,” Cates said. “Then we had bases loaded again in the sixth with one out, and struck out twice to end the inning. So bases loaded twice, five strikeouts. We have to do a better job with the bases loaded.”
Down 3-0 in the bottom of the third, the Pioneers got on the board when Queen hit a two-out double to score Ostermiller. In the bottom of the fourth, Cameron Schmidt led off with a single, eventually advancing to third on ground-outs by Nate Brown and Blough. Newcomer Canyon Gonzales doubled to right to score Schmidt, pulling the Pioneers within a run at 3-2.
Things got away from the Pioneers in the fourth, as the Flyers scored four runs. Powell answered with two runs in the sixth, but could get no closer.
The Pioneers had six hits in the contest, led by a 2-for-3, 2 RBI performance by Queen. Gonzales also had a pair of hits and an RBI, while Schmidt and Ostermiller each had a hit.
Queen got the start for the Pioneers, giving up seven hits and three runs (one earned) and striking out seven in three innings of work. Nate and Jesse Brown each pitched two innings in relief, with Nate giving up four hits and four earned runs and Jesse giving up two hits; both struck out three on the day.
The Pioneers are on the road this weekend, playing a Sunday doubleheader at Green River. Cates should have a full roster at his disposal, and he’s looking forward to what the team can do at full strength.
“I’m pretty confident with the guys that have been working out indoors all winter, plus the guys we’ve had at practice,” he said. “We’ll get it figured out.”
“With the first games out of the way, I think they’ll be relaxed a little more,” Cates added. “I’m pretty excited about this season — everyone is a little bit older, a little more mature and stronger. I think they have a better grasp of what they’re capable of. We should definitely be a state-contending team this year.”