Title Town

Posted 7/28/09

You can bet this isn't the scenario state officials expected after voting less than a year ago to cave in to regional pressure and condense AA and A baseball in the state into a single post-season tournament format.

“I knew we had the …

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{gallery}07_28_09/pioneers{/gallery} The Powell Pioneers walk off the field as a group following a 6-5 win over the Casper Oilers in the North district title game on Saturday night. The Pioneers improved to 42-13 this summer and open state tournament play against Riverton on Wednesday afternoon in Rock Springs. Tribune photo by Randal Horobik Pioneers hold off Casper for titleThe Powell Pioneers stunned defending AA state champion Gillette 8-5 on Friday, then maintained their composure in the face of an eighth-inning Casper Oiler rally Saturday night to capture the North district American Legion baseball title.

You can bet this isn't the scenario state officials expected after voting less than a year ago to cave in to regional pressure and condense AA and A baseball in the state into a single post-season tournament format.

“I knew we had the opportunity to come in here and do something,” said Pioneer coach Mike Jameson, who watched his team improve to 42-13 overall this season and stretch its latest win streak to eight straight. “We had kids step up at the plate. We executed well in the field. This was a total team effort.”

That was certainly on display on Saturday night at Mike Lansing Field in Casper, where the Pioneers almost made things look too easy at times. Starting pitcher Grant Geiser kept the Oilers off-balance early with an array of pitches. Once Casper began to get a feel for Geiser's offerings, the Pioneer's defense took over.

Catcher Auston Carter threw out a pair of Oiler baserunners at second base — one by enough of a margin that shortstop Scotty Jameson was required to take a full step toward first base before bending to apply the tag.

Jameson also played a role in another of the night's big defensive plays, taking a relay throw from center fielder Gianluca Giarrizzo and firing a frozen rope to third baseman Tyler Dahlgren to turn an apparent Oiler triple into an out.

The play came after Giarrizzo narrowly missed making an acrobatic leaping catch on the ball in center field.

“All weekend, the kids came and competed hard,” said Mike Jameson. “We played good defense and everyone from 1-9 in the batting order stepped up at some point when we needed them to, whether it was execution or a timely hit.”

That execution was on display in the second inning of the championship game and resulted in the Pioneers' first two runs. Auston Carter led off the inning with a single and advanced to second on a bunt single off the bat of Josh Cragoe.

“We were just trying to advance him over, but Josh laid down just the perfect bunt there,” said Jameson.

Andrew Young followed with a sacrifice bunt to bump the runners over to second and third and Dallas Robirds followed with a base hit back through the center of the infield for Powell's first two runs.

Powell added three runs in the fifth to go up by a 5-0 count, then answered Casper's first run of the game with a tally of their own in the sixth. It wasn't until the eighth inning, when the Oilers tagged Geiser hard for four runs that Powell felt the heat.

“Some folks probably thought I was crazy keeping him on the mound for the ninth inning, but I know the kind of competitor he is,” Jameson said. “He'd worked hard and he deserved the chance to finish it out. He wanted the ball in crunch time and you could really see that he was in a rhythm out there once the inning began.”

Geiser's ninth inning began with still another Pioneer defensive gem. A high infield bouncer forced Dahlgren to climb the ladder to catch the ball and fire it across the infield for an out.

“Just to go up and get the ball was a good play,” Jameson said. “Then to actually get enough on the throw across to get the out at first was great.”

The next two Oiler batters went down in less dramatic fashion to spark a Pioneer celebration on the infield.

“I had some great plays behind me,” said Geiser, who gave up 14 hits over nine innings, but never walked an Oiler batter. “I wasn't worried (in the ninth). I just knew I had to go out and get three outs.”

As a team, the Pioneers pounded 11 hits off Casper pitching. Cragoe, Geiser and Dahlgren each finished with two hits. Geiser had the game's only extra-base hit for Powell with a triple.

To reach Saturday's final, Powell had to first earn a 12-2 win over the Douglas Cats on Thursday, then followed with an 8-5 win over Gillette on Friday.

Thursday's game belonged to Colter Bostick. Bostick finished 4-for-5 at the plate with a home run and 3 RBI's and also picked up the win on the mound. Bostick threw seven solid innings, fanning eight as the Pioneers reached the 40-win plateau. Cragoe finished with 4 RBI's while Giarrizzo was a perfect 4-for-4 batter.

Friday's game saw the Pioneers trail Gillette 1-0 for much of the game before a seven-run inning threw the door wide open in favor of Powell.

Andrew Young connected for a bases-loaded double to bring home three runs. Scotty Jameson added a 3-for-4 performance that included both a triple and a double as Powell clubbed the defending state champs for nine hits.

Jameson also picked up the win on the mound in the semifinals, striking out 10 Gillette batters.

“We gained a lot of confidence this weekend,” said Mike Jameson. “The wins over Gillette and Casper were big wins that came down to our leaders stepping up. We said coming in that we were going to play fearless and go after these bigger teams and just see what happens and I think we came out about as focused as I've seen us.”

The Pioneers open state tournament play at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday against Riverton. The Pioneers are 3-1 this season against the Raiders.

“It's always nice when you're at a tournament like this to go up against someone that you've seen and that you have experience with,” Jameson said. “We know Matt Raymond is a good pitcher for them and we know what their batters are capable of.”

The winner of Wednesday's game between the two teams will advance to play the winner of the Gillette-Laramie game. The losers in those two first-round games will also face off in a Thursday elimination contest. Cody, Casper, Wheatland and Cheyenne Post 6 round out the state tournament field.

The state tournament is almost a tournament within a tournament for the Pioneers. While the team's eye, obviously, is on the state title and the regional tournament berth that goes along with it, the Pioneers will pay a little extra attention to Riverton, Wheatland and Cody, the only other Class A teams in the state field.

The highest finishing A team also earns a regional slot.

“I think those wins against Gillette and Casper give us even more confidence going into this week,” said Jameson.

“The kids know now that we can play at that level. We know if we play focused what we're capable of, and these kids are such competitors that they want to go out there and win. They're very motivated.”