The Powell Pioneers ended last season playing their best baseball. They upended Cody to win the regional championship and picked up a signature 6-0 victory over Cheyenne in the state …
The Powell Pioneers ended last season playing their best baseball. They upended Cody to win the regional championship and picked up a signature 6-0 victory over Cheyenne in the state tournament.
Powell’s American Legion baseball team finished the year 15-18, nearly tripling its 2019 win total. Though eight months have passed since the Pioneers ended the season in August, they haven’t stopped grinding.
“We’re going to build on what we did last year,” manager Joe Cates said. “We were firing on all cylinders at the end of the year, which was really nice. If all goes according to plan, hopefully we come back in stride.”
Powell kicks off the season Saturday with a home doubleheader against the 406 Flyers of Billings. First pitches will be at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.
After a season of noticeable growth, the team’s focus is building on last year.
The team began practicing in early January, except for athletes competing in other sports at the time. Since then, Cates has put his players through various drills and training to sharpen each aspect of their games. They have “hit a ton” this offseason to improve their swings, while the Pioneers’ pitchers have thrown bullpens every week.
While this diligent training will benefit every member of this year’s roster, Cates thinks it will particularly help his younger players.
“It’s benefitted them that they’ve had time to work with us,” he said. “Their confidence has grown as well as their size.”
Early on in 2020, pitching was a struggle for the team, but it improved as the season progressed. With another year of experience under their belts, last year’s young core of arms should show even more growth as the new campaign approaches.
“Our arm strength is already better this year than it was last year,” Cates said. “They’re throwing strikes, and most of them have two or three pitches.”
Powell returns all but two players (Colin Queen and Cameron Wentz) from last year’s varsity squad. The team will have five Powell High School seniors in the roster this season: Kobe Ostermiller, Canyon Gonzales, Landon Sessions, Ashton Brewer and Mason Marchant.
Other key returners include junior Keaton Rowton, Cade Queen, Jhett Schwahn, Brock Johnson and Trey Stenerson, all of whom were everyday players for the Pioneers a year ago.
Having so many players back from a year ago could have a positive impact on the team’s chemistry.
“It’s exciting in the sense that I’m not having to rebuild again,” the coach said. “My younger guys from last year are studs coming back, and so are my seniors. I expect them to grow and get better this year; I expect them to all have good seasons.”
As the Pioneers turn the page to a new chapter, Cates’ goals for Saturday’s opener are simple.
“I just hope to see a clean baseball game,” he said. “Our pitching should be ahead of the game in the sense that we’ve been throwing all winter, so we’ll see how that goes and hopefully limit walks.
“Hitting, we want to see good plate approaches,” Cates added. “I’m not that worried about the outcome, I just want to see them do it the right way.”