Tuesday’s day-night doubleheader against the Cody Cubs A squad was a tale of two games for the Powell Pioneers. The Powell team survived a 22-1 rout in the first game to battle back for a more competitive 10-7 loss in the second.
“It came down to how they entered the game,” said Pioneers manager Joe Cates. “The second game, they came in loose, not stressed out, not worried about making mistakes. First game they came in tight, trying to do too much, trying to be too perfect. It bit us in the butt a little bit.”
Cody 22, Pioneers 1
The Cubs came into Tuesday’s doubleheader sporting a gaudy 30-4 record, proving in the opener why they’re the team to beat in the Legion A West Conference. Cody pounded out 20 hits en route to a 22-1 demolishing of the Pioneers (3-18), while allowing just one hit in the process.
Cody’s Heston Williams pitched the one-hitter over five innings on the mound, while the Pioneers couldn’t find an answer for Jared Grenz, who went 5-5 at the plate with six RBIs. Powell’s lone hit was an infield single by Kobe Ostermiller in the bottom of the third inning.
Nate Brown got the start on the mound for the Pioneers, and looked sharp in the first inning, holding the Cubs scoreless and recording a strikeout. But after Williams retired Powell in order in the bottom of the first, Cody’s bats came alive in the second, plating five runs behind four hits in the inning.
“Nate [Brown] started and threw OK,” Cates said. “The second inning, he makes an error, we had an error at shortstop, we hit a guy, and it just snowballed.”
Powell got its first baserunner in the bottom of the second, with Cameron Wentz reaching on a dropped third strike. Cody added five more runs in the top of the third, while Ostermiller’s infield single in the bottom of the third did little to generate movement for the Pioneers. With two outs, Ostermiller reached second on a balk, but Williams struck out Jesse Brown to end the threat.
Cody added three more runs in the fourth and exploded for nine in the fifth to run the score to 22-1.
“After the fourth inning, before we brought in Cameron Schmidt, I think Cody had 11 hits and nine walks,” Cates said. “It’s hard to defend walks.”
Schmidt gave up about nine hits in one inning, Cates said, “but he was throwing strikes, giving our defense a chance to make plays.”
With their last at bat, the Pioneers were able to manufacture a run to avoid the shutout. With one out, Powell’s Ashton Brewer reached on an error, eventually landing on second. A Landon Sessions grounder was bobbled by the shortstop, putting Brewer on third and Sessions on first. With runners on the corners, Ostermiller hit into a fielder’s choice, scoring Brewer.
“I think kids were trying to do too much at the plate, and it really hurt us,” Cates said. “Just overthinking, overdoing everything. Just not being able to do what we’ve been doing and trust that it works.”
For the Pioneers on the hill, Brown took the loss, giving up five runs on six hits, striking out two in two innings of work. Ryley Meyer, Reece Hackenberg and Cameron Schmidt all came on in relief for Powell, giving up a combined 17 runs on 14 hits.
At the plate, Cody had four players with multi-hit games, led by Jared Grenz’s 5-5, six-RBI performance. Cooper Brown and Devyn Engdahl each finished with four hits and three RBIs.
Ostermiller finished 1-2 with an RBI for the Pioneers.
Cody 10, Pioneers 7
The second game of the doubleheader began much like the first ended, with the Cubs plating three runs in the top of the first to jump out to a 3-0 lead.
This time, though, the Pioneers were determined to prove the first game wasn’t indicative of what the team was capable of. Colin Queen led off the bottom of the first with a single, followed by a single from Jesse Brown. That brought up Meyer, whose grounder to the second baseman was mishandled, scoring Queen and advancing Brown to third. With runners at the corners, Schmidt walked to load the bases, bringing up Nate Brown, who reached on an error, scoring Jesse Brown.
With still no outs, Cameron Wentz singled to left, scoring Meyer and tying the game at 3-3. Schmidt was called out on a pickoff move to first, and Reece Hackenberg and Noah Blough struck out to end the inning.
“That first inning was great,” Cates said, adding, “We had that dumb mistake where we should have taken the lead, but they weren’t trying to do too much. The way they approached their at-bats made all the difference.”
After that inning, the Pioneers’ bats quieted a bit, while Cody added a run in the second and five in the third. But just as it seemed the game would spiral away, Powell’s pitching shut down Cody for the next two innings. The Cubs scored again in the top of the sixth to make it 10-3.
Wentz led off the bottom of the sixth with a walk and moved to second on a Hackenberg single. Queen hit into a fielder’s choice after a strikeout by Blough, scoring Wentz. With Hackenberg on third, Jesse Brown’s fly ball to right was dropped, scoring Hackenberg and cutting Cody’s lead to 10-5.
“They did a good job of continuing to battle back,” Cates said of his squad. “They kept themselves in the game.”
In the top of the seventh, Jesse Brown struck out the side to hold Cody at 10, setting up Powell’s final at-bats. Schmidt led off with a single, followed by a walk by Nate Brown. Wentz grounded out to the second baseman, but Schmidt scored on the play and Brown advanced to third, making it 10-6.
With two outs and Brown on third, Blough singled to center, scoring Brown and closing the gap to 10-7 before Cody closed the door.
“They gave themselves a chance to win the game,” Cates said of the Pioneers. “We had the tying run at the plate with Colin Queen at the top of the order. He hits a ball hard up the middle, and was just caught and game over. But they battled back and were in a position to either tie or win the ballgame. That was a plus.”
Starter Jordan Wasia got the win for the Cubs, giving up three runs on three hits and striking out seven in three innings of work. Wentz started on the hill for the Pioneers, giving up nine runs on 10 hits, striking out five in three innings. Jesse Brown came on in relief, giving up just one run on three hits and striking out five in four innings.
At the plate, Cody pounded out 13 hits, with five players recording multi-hit games. Connor McLeod led the charge at the plate for the Cubs, going 2-3 with three RBIs.
The Pioneers had eight hits, led by a pair of singles from Zane Cordes. Wentz went 1-3 with a pair of RBIs; Queen, Jesse Brown, Schmidt, Hackenberg and Blough each had a single.
“We felt a lot better after that second game, I think it was just attitude,” Cates said. “They just trusted everything they’ve been working on instead of overthinking it — just trust your reactions and go. That was a big difference-maker.”
The Pioneers are at home today (Thursday) against Laramie, with game time set for 5:30 p.m. The team then hits the road this weekend for a doubleheader in Green River. Cates told the team after the second contest with Cody to just relax and enjoy the game.
“I told the team if they were to approach every game like they did the second game, they’d be a much better ball club,” Cates said. “Go out and play loose, keep the intensity up and have fun playing baseball. Don’t be so afraid of making a mistake.”