Before the Powell Pioneers’ Saturday opener against the 406 Flyers, manager Joe Cates’ goal was for his team to play clean baseball. While the coach knew his team wouldn’t be at …
Before the Powell Pioneers’ Saturday opener against the 406 Flyers, manager Joe Cates’ goal was for his team to play clean baseball. While the coach knew his team wouldn’t be at peak performance after several months off the field, he wanted to see adequate pitching, a confident approach at the plate and minimal errors.
The Pioneers achieved all of those things in their 9-6 win over the Flyers.
“I think we exceeded that goal big time,” Cates said.
After falling into a 2-1 hole in the first inning, Powell’s bats sparked in the second frame. The Pioneers scored four runs on one hit, three walks and a hit by pitch — giving them a lead they never surrendered.
Senior Kobe Ostermiller was the lone Pioneer with multiple hits, recording two of the team’s six knocks. Kolt Flores, Mason Marchant and Brock Johnson also showed up in the hit column, with Flores drawing three walks. Powell scored at least one run in every inning they took the plate, while Johnson crossed the plate three times in the win.
Though Cates admitted the approach at the plate wasn’t the best and the team wasn’t “crushing it,” he was pleased with the Pioneers’ offensive performance overall.
“I think they did a good job of taking the pitches that needed to be taken,” the coach said. “They put a bat on the ball, put the ball in play and forced the defense to make plays. Right now, that’s all I’m looking for — positive at-bats, swinging at good pitches, and that’s what we did.”
On the mound, Flores picked up the win in relief. He threw three innings, including a one-two-three third. While his outing faltered in the fourth when he gave up three runs, Flores regrouped in the fifth with a clean frame.
“Kolt [Flores] was great,” Cates said. “We’ve been doing lots of bullpens indoors this spring, and his stuff has been great.”
Johnson earned a save, pitching the sixth and seventh innings. Other than two walks in the seventh, he threw exceptionally to close out the 9-6 victory.
“His first inning was tremendous,” Cates said of Johnson. “He threw his fastball for strikes, he was down in the zone, and when he’s down in the zone, he’s hard to hit. I was very pleased with both of those guys coming out of the pen.”
Senior Mason Marchant started the game, throwing two innings. He struggled with command early, giving up a couple walks and two runs in the first. But his outing improved in the second, when he gave up just one run with minimal damage.
Marchant hasn’t played baseball in three years, and Cates believes the steady improvement displayed in his two innings of work is a preview of how the pitcher will develop throughout the season.
“With more experience on the mound, he’s going to do a great job for us,” Cates said. “I think he can be one of our top guys, I expect that from him. Just getting him the reps he needs, making sure he stays confident, and he’s going to do a great job for me.”
All-in-all, the Pioneers showed promise in every area Saturday. They swung at strikes, put together three solid performances on the mound and committed only three errors in the field.
That said, Cates has a few areas he wants to polish before his team’s next games — a home doubleheader against the Billings Cardinals on Saturday, May 8.
“Keep our bullpens going, keep our arms in shape, and a lot of BP,” he said. “We gotta get guys more live at-bats so our timing is where it needs to be. Our timing at the plate wasn’t where it needed to be, but it wasn’t bad, so that’s going to be our goal.
“It’s a great start, especially for the first game of the year, so I’m excited,” Cates said. “Hopefully everything keeps rolling.”