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Pioneers’ top players on All-State list

Powell’s Brendon Phister celebrates a base hit with first base coach Scott Heny during Sunday morning’s 8-5 win over Laramie in the state semifinals. Powell’s Brendon Phister celebrates a base hit with first base coach Scott Heny during Sunday morning’s 8-5 win over Laramie in the state semifinals. Tribune photo by Dante Geoffrey

Three Powell Pioneers players were named to the Wyoming American Legion Class A All-State team, as voted on by the league’s coaches.

Hayden Cragoe and Cory Heny were named to the first team while Brendon Phister was named to the second team. Cragoe and Phister received the honor following their final Legion seasons while Heny may return in 2015.

Cragoe and Heny were the most potent and consistent hitters for Powell, which went 21-28 but was the league runner-up after a successful run through the North District and Class A State tournaments.

An overbooked schedule and a shoulder injury couldn’t prevent Cragoe from posting gaudy numbers in his fourth American Legion season.

“He’s just that good,” said Pioneers manager Jason Borders. “He can take that time off, miss some practices.”

Cragoe’s time with Powell High School’s track and field season overlapped with the first few weeks of the Legion season.

“What would he have been if he wouldn’t have (missed practice), that would be my question,” Borders said. “What kind of numbers would he have put up?”

It’s hard to imagine the numbers could have looked much better.

Cragoe led the Pioneers with a 1.267 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) and was third on the team with a .402 batting average. He was second on the team with five home runs despite having 45 less at-bats than home-run leader Grady Sanders, who hit six.

Cragoe’s team-high nine triples were evidence of his blend of power and speed. He stole 25 bases while being caught just once, the lowest of any Pioneer who attempted more than three stolen bases.

Heny earned his spot on the list by being Powell’s top two-way player in 2014.

“He’s for the capability to be that guy,” Borders said.

Heny hit .426/.503/.611 and scored a team-high 55 runs while also pitching 63.1 innings with a team-best 2.21 ERA.

“You’re always in a game when Cory’s on the mound,” Borders said. “And it wasn’t like we were throwing him against (sub-par) teams. He was throwing against good teams.”

Heny had a 1.114 OPS, hit two home runs, drove in 35 RBI and stole 26 bases.

Heny was also given the most demanding defensive assignments. Traditionally a center fielder, Heny spent a lot of time at third and shortstop this season. His .911 fielding percentage was third amongst players with at least 45 chances.

“Wherever we needed somebody Cory went and filled that position,” Borders said.

Heny even volunteered to give up his desired spot in center.

“He’s the one that came to me and said, ‘Put me at short,’” Borders said. “He wants to be a center fielder. If he plays in college that’s where he wants to play.”

Heny has considered walking on at Montana State University-Billings. Borders said he wouldn’t doubt Heny, who is “headstrong and is determined.”

Heny could be eligible to rejoin the Pioneers next season if Wyoming’s American Legion doesn’t pass a rule that prohibits 19-year-old graduates from playing.

Phister was third on the Pioneers with a .995 OPS and led the team with 35 stolen bases while being caught six times.

Phister’s speed and knack for getting on base (.528 OBP, 20 HBP) led to 44 runs, which was third on the Pioneers.

“He’s a little inconspicuous,” Borders said. “But he’s the guy that all the other coaches worry about.”

In the field Phister roamed center when Heny was in the infield or on the mound.

“He’s the guy who steals shots in the gaps from people, he lays out,” Borders said. “He plays so hard. He’s going to be missed.”

Absent from the All-State lists were two of Powell’s key offensive weapons.

After a torrid first-half of the season Sanders fell into a late slump but still finished the year as Powell’s leader in home runs and RBIs. Sanders’ .957 OPS was good for fifth on the team and .548 slugging percentage was third.

Zander Andreasen hardly ever did the worst thing you can do as a hitter — make an out. Andreasen led the Pioneers with a .535 OBP (a team-high 31 walks and a team-low 10 strikeouts among any batter with at least 100 at-bats) and was second in runs and fourth in stolen bases.

Ty Whiteman was one of Powell’s top starting pitchers, but his lack of an offensive presence hurt his chances at postseason honors.

“Why you pitch only, I don’t think they get the respect,” Borders said.

But Whiteman was instrumental in Powell’s tournament runs.

“If he doesn’t come in and throw like he does against Laramie, we’re probably not the second-best team in the state,” Borders said.

Borders also mentioned pitcher Matt Brown who, like Whiteman, was not a regular in the lineup.

“Without Ty and Brown we wouldn’t have been where we were,” Borders said. “It’s too bad they don’t have something for pitchers.”

The state-champion Cody Cubs led all teams with four players on the first team. Torrington had four total players selected but only one on the first team.

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