Before Sunday’s game against the Billings Halos, Pioneers manager Joe Cates had a message for his squad. He preached finishing strong before taking the six-and-a-half hour trip from Watford …
Before Sunday’s game against the Billings Halos, Pioneers manager Joe Cates had a message for his squad. He preached finishing strong before taking the six-and-a-half hour trip from Watford City, North Dakota, back to Wyoming.
“I told them, ‘It would suck to lose this game and ride back thinking about it,’” Cates said. “‘Let’s kick [butt] and go home.’”
It didn’t take long for this speech to resonate with his squad.
Senior Kobe Ostermiller belted a double against the wall for a leadoff baserunner, and Jhett Schwahn and Brock Johnson followed up with doubles of their own. The Pioneers scored twice in the first inning and followed it with an 11-run second, eventually winning 19-0.
Not a bad way to end a weekend.
After a dismal 8-0 loss to Watford City on Saturday to open their tournament in North Dakota, the Pioneers rallied to win the next three games, defeating McKenzie County, North Dakota (13-1), Glasgow, Montana (3-2) and the Halos. Powell now sits at 15-3.
A tornado warning Friday moved the Pioneers’ first game to Saturday morning. While twisters were no longer roaming through the plains, conditions still weren’t ideal the next day.
High winds impacted both squads throughout Saturday’s game against Watford City and caused Powell to unravel in the third inning, in particular. Between defensive miscues, timely Watford City hitting and a heated exchange between Cates and the home plate umpire, the tournament hosts posted a seven-spot.
“That was the inning we lost, and it cost us,” Cates said.
Even though Landon Sessions picked up the loss, Cates pointed out that Sessions threw “really well,” despite the outcome.
Powell’s next two games were much more sound performances.
Against McKenzie County, Powell’s bats showed life, as Johnson and Schwahn each recorded three hits. The Pioneers also capitalized on their opponent’s miscues, crossing the plate a few times on errors.
The third game of the weekend, a Sunday morning tilt with Glasgow, was much closer. Though the Pioneers struggled to find a rhythm at the plate, they pushed ahead behind strong pitching and flawless defense.
Pitchers Trey Stenerson, Cade Queen and Johnson combined to allow just four hits, and the Pioneers didn’t commit a single error in the field.
“Taking care of the baseball is huge,” Cates said. “It gives our pitchers a lot of confidence to know we have solid defense behind them.”
While Cates noted the improvement from games two and three compared to the first, he singled out the tournament finale as clearly the best outing from the Pioneers.
In the onslaught against Billings, several players made their mark offensively, and Schwahn was the standout. He notched four hits and four RBIs for his best game of the 2021 season.
“His confidence is building,” Cates said of Schwahn. “He’s had the ability to do it, but now he’s starting to scratch the surface and his confidence is through the roof.”
On the bump, Johnson threw all four innings, allowing only one hit in the four-inning complete game. The incoming Powell High School sophomore has still not allowed a run this year.
“I think he knows what he needs to do,” Cates said. “I don’t have to tell him this and that. He does a great job staying within himself.”
After a long stretch away from home, the Pioneers return this week to host a doubleheader against Buffalo on Wednesday, with games at 5 and 7 p.m. Looking to build on his team’s recent success, Cates hopes the back-to-back games expand the team’s pitching arsenal.
“I’m looking to get more guys on the hill,” he said. “It’s been difficult getting guys in just because starters are throwing well, but we’ll be giving more guys time this week.”