“I think the last one (state Babe Ruth title) for us was in the late 60s,” said Pudge Fagan, one of the coaches for this year's team. “We've been to the championship game a few times, but until now we've never been able to get in …
The Powell Babe Ruth All-Stars recovered from a tournament-opening loss in Douglas to register four consecutive victories and capture the 2009 Wyoming state championship. In the process, the team earned the almost unthinkable —a place in next week's Pacific Northwest regional tournament in Centralia, Wash.
“I think the last one (state Babe Ruth title) for us was in the late 60s,” said Pudge Fagan, one of the coaches for this year's team. “We've been to the championship game a few times, but until now we've never been able to get in the dance.”
It didn't look like the All-Stars would be dancing this season either after their first tournament game. Powell looked out of sorts in an 11-2 loss to Jackson to begin pool play.
“We just weren't ready to play after being cooped up and traveling there,” said Fagan. “We had a couple bad innings. There were a few walks, a few errors…we just played very flat.”
The early loss plunged Powell into must-win territory for the remainder of the state tournament. In true all-star fashion, the All-Stars bounced back with a 6-1 victory over Sheridan before emphatically sealing their place in the final four with a 29-0 demolition of Rawlins.
Seth Gilmore pitched the win for Powell in the Sheridan contest. A three-run fourth inning helped give the All-Stars some daylight as balanced hitting was the order of the day offensively.
“That really was the way things went for a lot of the weekend,” said Fagan. “From the top to the bottom of the lineup, we had kids swinging the bat and hitting the ball. It was just a good, balanced performance at the plate.”
Combined with the blowout win over Rawlins, which saw Powell play station-to-station baseball for the better part of three innings in an atempt to keep the score down, the All-Stars advanced to bracket play as the number two seed from their four-team pool.
That position placed them against the winner of the opposite pool, Torrington, in the semifinals. Powell wasted little time in jumping out to an advantage.
Cooper Wise led off the contest with a single and scored a couple of pitches later as Olie Olson tagged a triple to the outfield fence. Seth Gilmore dropped in a perfectly executed squeeze bunt as Olson charged home from third with the pitch to give Powell a 2-0 lead.
From there, things continued to snowball for the All-Stars.
“We put up six runs on them in that first inning,” said Fagan. “That was just a fun game. The kids were playing hard. We were executing well. It was just fun baseball.”
Gilmore again picked up the win on the hill for Powell. The youngster allowed just three hits and a pair of runs as Powell earned a spot in the championship contest with a 7-2 victory.
As hot a start as Powell enjoyed in its semifinal contest, the team found itself on the opposite side of the equation as Rock Springs burst out of the gates with four runs in the top half of the first inning in the championship game.
“We told the kids to keep their focus, to stay positive and we'd be alright,” said Fagan. “They did just that.”
The All-Stars chiseled away at the Rock Springs lead with single runs in the first and second innings. The team took its first lead of the championship contest with a three-run performance in the fourth inning and later tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the sixth.
That would be all the help starting pitcher Cooper Wise needed. After a rocky start to the game, Wise settled into a groove and shut down Rock Springs the remainder of the way as Powell laid claim to the state title with a 7-4 win.
“Cooper really got it done for us after the first inning,” said Fagan. “Offensively, our hits were all spread out, just like they had been all weekend. Justin Lynn and Frankie Vogt both hit well when we needed it this tournament.”
And now the fun begins.
The Powell All-Stars will take the 14-hour trip to Centralia, reporting on Sunday for the start of the Pacific Northwest regional tournament. Powell begins play in the 10-team tournament field on Monday.
According to the tournament bracket, Powell opens play against Ontario, Ore., at 2 p.m. on Monday. The team has additional games against Calgary, Alberta, Canada, (11 a.m., Aug. 4), tournament host Centralia (8 p.m., Aug. 5), and the Southern Oregon tournament champion (2 p.m., Aug. 7). The Southern Oregon tournament representative had not been reported to the regional tournament director as of press time.
The top two teams from that five-team pool will advance to the Aug. 8 semifinals, where they will be cross-bracketed against the top two teams from the pool of Snohomish, Wash., Hazeldell Metro, Wash., Lewiston, Idaho, Cutbank, Mont., and Chehalis, Wash. The tournament champion earns a spot in the Babe Ruth World Series, held Aug. 21-25 in Longview, Wash.
Between now and then, there's some work to be done.
“We've been told it could cost between $15,000 and $18,000 for this trip, so we have a lot of fundraising to do in a very short period of time,” said Fagan.
The Wyoming state Babe Ruth chapter provides $1,500 to help defray the expenses of the state representative.
The remainder of the figure, however, will have to come from the team.
The Powell All-Stars will hold a car wash on Wednesday at Skippy's Car Wash. On Thursday night, the community is invited to a Dine on the Diamond barbecue fundraiser at 6:30 p.m. at the Babe Ruth park. The event will provide the community with an opportunity to meet the team members and coaches.
“They're pretty excited,” Fagan said of the team members. “We're going to see some great baseball teams out there and this experience is going to do so much for our local league.”