The Pioneers opened the Stanaway Wood Bat tournament in Billings with a victory — behind a complete game shutout from Nate Brown — before dropping four straight.
“We gained a lot of experience at this tournament and saw some good programs,” said team manager George Laughlin.
The Thursday-Sunday tournament was unique in that the Pioneers and their opponents traded in their usual metal bats for wooden ones.
“Defensively, we looked pretty solid all weekend,” Laughlin said. “There were a few times pitching got away from us, but our defense kept us in ball games and within striking distance.”
Powell Pioneers 2, 406 Flyers 0
The Pioneers took their opening game of the tournament in extra innings, 2-0, on Thursday. The squad rode the arm of Nate Brown, who pitched all eight innings and allowed just three hits and one walk while striking out seven; at one point, he struck out five straight Flyers.
“Nate Brown had a great tournament all around,” Laughlin said. The manager praised Brown not only for his pitching, but his “excellent” work in the field, also noting a couple of RBIs over the weekend.
The Pioneers were similarly stymied until the top of the eighth, when Jesse Brown led off the inning by cracking a double to right-center field. A Tyler Feller groundout moved Jesse Brown to third, then Luke Washington “executed an excellent bunt,” Laughlin said. That bunt scored Jesse Brown and got Washington to first.
Cameron Wentz pushed Washington to second base, then Nate Brown gave himself some breathing room with an RBI single that made it 2-0.
Nate Brown and the Pioneer defense then retired the Flyers in order in the bottom of the eighth to seal the win.
Jackson Giants 12, Pioneers 4
A Friday doubleheader started with a lopsided loss to the Giants.
Jackson jumped out to a four-run lead in the top of the first inning. Powell answered with one of their own in the bottom half of the inning, but Jackson added three more runs in the second to make it 7-1.
The Pioneers got as close as 8-3 in the fourth, but the Giants built the lead back up with four more runs in the fifth inning. The Pioneers got one run back in the bottom of the fifth, but that wasn’t enough to avoid the tournament’s eight-run mercy rule, falling 12-4.
Colin Queen started for Powell and allowed seven runs (four earned) in two innings. Wentz finished things up, giving up five runs (four earned) in three innings. Queen, Washington and Wentz each had two-hit games. Feller, Cameron Schmidt and Nate Brown all picked up RBIs. Queen led the team at the plate over the five games of the tournament, going 6-13 with two walks and two runs.
Billings Angels 1, Pioneers 0
The second half of Friday’s doubleheader was again a defensive battle.
Neither the Billings Angels nor the Pioneers could muster a run in the first six innings, with the Pioneers getting a strong start from Feller on the mound. Feller struck out two while scattering six hits and three walks across a complete game of 6 1/3 innings.
Laughlin said the Pioneers had scoring chances in both the fifth and sixth innings; Jaxson Carter was hit by a pitch with two outs in the fifth, followed by a single from Queen — just one of two Pioneer hits in the game. However a hard-hit groundball from Jesse Brown found Billings’ shortstop and ended that chance. In the sixth, Washington reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second and later advanced to third on a groundout from Nate Brown. However, Billings escaped again by getting Schmidt to ground out to third.
The Angels then broke through in the bottom of the seventh for a run and a walk-off win with one out.
Wentz recorded the Pioneers’ other hit in the game.
Laughlin said the loss “was a tough one, having a couple of chances to take the lead, but the growth these boys have shown in such a short time is incredible.”
“They took on a tough team and just missed coming away with a win,” he said.
Sheridan Jets 10, Pioneers 3
Powell took an early 1-0 lead in a Saturday contest against Sheridan, but the Jets responded with four of their own in the bottom half of the first. They added three more in the third to lead 8-2 and went on to win 10-3.
Queen posted another two-hit game, as did Zane Cordes, who also added an RBI. Cordes came on in early relief to throw six innings, allowing six hits and six runs with two strikeouts.
Lovell Mustangs 9, Powell Pioneers 5
On Sunday, the Pioneers were matched up with Lovell, the No. 4 seed from the tournament’s other division. The Powell squad took a 1-0 lead in the second inning, but the Mustangs busted loose for seven runs in the third. The Pioneers clawed back into the game with one run in the third, two in the fourth and one in the fifth to make it 7-5, but the Mustangs effectively shut the door with a pair of insurance runs in the sixth.
Schmidt excelled at the plate, reaching base three times with two singles, an RBI and a run. Feller contributed two RBIs. Jaxson Carter started the game for Powell, throwing two innings and allowing five runs on three hits with two strikeouts. Jesse Brown followed with four innings, giving up four runs (only one earned) on one hit and a strikeout. Reece Hackenberg closed things out by throwing a scoreless, hitless seventh inning for the Pioneers.
Today (Tuesday), the Pioneers face a couple of must-win games in Green River to keep their state tournament hopes alive. The squads will play at 3 and 5 p.m.
“We’ve got most of our arms available to throw and we will definitely be going after them,” Laughlin said.
On Friday, the Pioneers will close out the regular season in Cody, facing the Cubs at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.