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Pioneers lose top player

Frankie Vogt pitches during a Powell Pioneers home game last season. Vogt, who struck out 19 batters in one game and led the team in home runs, will not play this season. Frankie Vogt pitches during a Powell Pioneers home game last season. Vogt, who struck out 19 batters in one game and led the team in home runs, will not play this season. Tribune photo by Dante Geoffrey

Frankie Vogt to skip final season of eligibility  

The 2014 Powell Pioneers should look a lot like the 2013 version, except for the glaring absence of their best player.

Frankie Vogt, the 2013 North District Player of the Year and A-League All-State selection, will be gone from an otherwise intact Pioneers squad, which begins its season in mid-May.

Vogt announced his final decision Monday morning.

An injury to his right shoulder sustained during the state tournament in Gillette last summer delayed Vogt’s preseason training and fundraising, and the unanimous selection to the North’s All-District team had to consider the health and financial risks before dedicating himself to another season.

Vogt assumed he would not be cleared to play and forewent the team’s early-season fundraisers. The Pioneers’ top slugger and hurler eventually received the medical go-ahead, but felt he fell too far behind his fundraising to play one last season before heading to the University of Wyoming in the fall.

“I don’t think I’m going to be able to afford it,” Vogt told the Tribune Friday evening, when he was still uncertain if he would play. Vogt is currently attending Northwest College and said the transition from high school to college made it more challenging to continue his baseball career, though he said he would definitely play if “I won the lottery.”

Each Pioneer player works to raise $1,000 prior to the season’s start.

But it wasn’t solely a matter of money.

If 2013 wasn’t going to be Vogt’s final season, 2014 most certainly would be, and the 18-year-old wanted to be careful not to cause longterm damage.

“I just don’t want to injure (my shoulder) or throw it out,” Vogt said.

Vogt said he first tried physical therapy to fix his shoulder, but when he didn’t get the desired results he went to see a doctor in Billings for an MRI. He had “just a bit of swelling and fluid” around one of his biceps tendons, and he could play without a substantial risk of further injury.

If he did play, Vogt said he would have been able to lend his much-needed bat to Powell’s offense, but pitching would have been out of the question.

“It’s the throwing motion that gets me,” he said.

This would have limited Vogt’s positional availability to first base, or possibly second, which was fine with Pioneers manager Jason Borders.

Borders said he told Vogt, “I’ll put you at first base ... you won’t have to throw two balls.”

Borders desperately wanted to keep Vogt in uniform one last season as the Pioneers are in a position to field one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the state. But the loss of Vogt will be a drastic hit to the team’s state title aspirations.

“He’s our best player, there’s no arguing that one,” Borders said Friday.

Vogt dominated from the plate and the mound in 2013.

He boasted a line of .518/.573/.863 to go with nine home runs, 19 doubles, six triples and 65 RBIs while batting second, third or fourth in the lineup. Only Vogt’s on-base percentage of .573 wasn’t a Pioneers high.

From the rubber Vogt was equally impressive with his team-leading ERA (1.78) and strikeouts (84) in 55 innings pitched. He also allowed the fewest walks (20) of the six Powell pitchers who threw 28 or more innings.

Not only will Vogt’s departure shorten Powell’s lineup and thin its rotation, but the loss of his calm demeanor would also create a void.

“He just goes about his work,” Borders said. “He’s a good leader to have on the team.”

Borders said he had been hoping for the best but preparing for the worst, and will now do his best to prepare the players he has. “I’m just going to try to focus the team on playing without him,” he said.

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