Mustangs sweep Powell but fall twice to Cody

David Peck

Facing a pair of key conference doubleheaders this week, the Lovell Mustangs took care of business Friday, sweeping the Powell Pioneers in two close battles at home in Cowley, then dropped two to Cody Tuesday, also at home.
The home stretch started well for the Mustangs as they prevailed in a pair of nail-biters against rival Powell Friday, edging the Pioneers 4-3 in game one and 10-8 in game two.
Manager Michael Jameson said Friday’s wins were great for the team, but there’s still a long season to go.
“We made a point to make sure after the games to tell those guys that this can’t be the highlight of the season,” Jameson said. “These are obviously real big wins for us, and key conference wins against an extremely talented team, but we (coaches) made sure that they know we don’t want this to be the peak of the season. It’s just two conference wins at the end of the day, and ultimately, it’ll come down to the district tournament for who goes to State.”
Jameson said the wins provided a boost to the team, however.
“I think more so (it’s good) just for the confidence of playing good baseball against high quality opponents, and being able to get those wins,” he said, “and having that confidence that we can do that. It’s just kind of crazy how baseball goes. We’ve kind of made a point when we have everybody there, we can do some good things. We obviously played really well. And Jason (Borders, Powell manager) being one of my best friends, that’s always fun. They were missing some guys with Jhett (Schwahn) gone and Brock (Johnson) not on the mound. They have a lot of excellent athletes and a lot of good baseball players on that team.”
Lafe Files was an ace on the hill in the first game, throwing all 105 of his allotted pitches and allowing just three runs, only one earned, in 5 2/3 innings of work, on five hits and six walks, striking out five. Jacob Bischoff relieved and didn’t allow a run in the final inning and a third on one hit and one walk while fanning three.
“I think our pitching has been the thing that’s carried us all year,” Jameson said. “I think for the most part our pitchers have kept us in most games, and as long as we play a little bit of defense behind them … I think now we’re starting to hit a little bit and score some runs. I think that’s going to be kind of the key -- being able to score runs.
“This is definitely the most pitching depth that we’ve had. We’ve got a lot of different guys that we can go to, and guys like Jacob have stepped up huge for us on the mound. You know, he’s not really a kid that threw a ton for us last year, but he throws pretty hard, and he’s been able to find the zone.”
Powell got on the scoreboard first with a single run in the top of the second inning, then added two in the third, aided by some Lovell miscues in the field.
Unfazed by the three-run deficit, the Mustangs plated four runs in the bottom of the third. Kyle Wilson laced a double to get things going, and Carlos Rodriguez singled to score Wilson. After a strikeout, Rodriguez stole second and came home on a base hit by Alex Hedges.
After Files drew a walk, he and Hedges moved up on a passed ball and scored on a line-drive double by Owen Walker. That one-run lead was all Files and Bischoff needed as Powell put three goose eggs on the scoreboard in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh.
Lovell banged out 11 hits against Powell pitching, two each by Rodriguez and Tucker Jackson and one each by Bischoff, Kyle Wilson, Hedges, Files, Walker, Blake Wilson and Matthew Newman. Kyle Wilson, Walker and Newman hit doubles in the game.
Game two was a back-and-forth contest that left fans on the edge of their seats. Powell plated two runs in each the second and third innings against Lovell starter Jackson to lead 4-0, but the Mustangs rallied for seven in the bottom of the fourth. After Lovell tied the score thanks to RBIs off the bats of Files, Walker, Newman and Bischoff, Rodriguez cleared the bases with a three-run double to put Lovell up 7-4. The Mustangs added a run in the fifth to lead 8-4.
But Powell wasn’t finished. The Pioneers scored four in the top of the sixth against reliever Newman, tying the score 8-8.
Not to be outdone, Lovell rallied for two in the bottom of the sixth. Bischoff took one for the team as a hit batter to start the inning, and Cash Wassmer followed with a single. Both moved up a base on a ground out by Rodriguez. Jackson lofted a sacrifice fly to score Bischoff, and Hedges singled to score Wassmer.
Hedges took the mound in the top of the seventh, and though he allowed three baserunners on two walks and a single, he also struck out two before Trey Stenerson grounded out to end the game.
Jameson said his pitchers continue to improve.
“They’re just more mature physically and mentally,” he said. “I think that has helped a lot. We can put out a pretty solid defense when we get everybody there, and obviously having Cash there (at catcher), he does a heck of a job. And so, yeah, I feel like that’s a big part of it. Those guys feel more comfortable pitching when they feel like the guys behind them are going to make the plays.”
Jameson said it was great to see the team versatility as Rodriguez played catcher after an injury to Wassmer in the first game and Kyle Wilson entered the lineup and hit a key double. He noted that the team has been hitting well in recent weeks.
“We’ve really made that (situational hitting) a point of emphasis in our practices,” Jameson said. “The biggest thing was the two-strike approach, and now using the whole field has been a focus. We do lots of drills where we’re hitting the ball the other way and trying to hit the ball where it’s pitched. And I think those guys have really bought into that. … Our strikeouts have gone down, too.
Cody losses
Things didn’t go so well Tuesday against Cody as the Mustangs were not sharp, falling to the visiting Cubs 11-1 and 19-6.
The Mustangs took a 1-0 lead in game one when, in the bottom of the first, Rodriguez reached on a fielder’s choice, moved to third on a walk and hit batter and scored when Files drew a bases-loaded walk.
Cody tied the score with a run in the top of the third, and the up-until-that-point clean Lovell defensive game collapsed in the fourth as Cody scored 10 runs on four singles, two doubles, four walks, two errors and a hit batter. Lovell didn’t score again, so the game ended on the 10-run mercy rule after five innings, with Cody winning 11-1.
Jackson started and took the loss for the Mustangs, allowing eight runs, seven earned, in 3 1/3 innings of work on seven hits, three walks and two hit batters while fanning three. Newman relieved in the fourth, and Blake Wilson pitched the final inning and two thirds, allowing only one hit.
Jackson had two of Lovell’s four hits, with Wassmer and Newman also contributing base hits.
Game two didn’t go any better for the home team. Cody plated three runs in the top of the first inning against starter
Blake Wilson, aided by two hit batters. The Mustangs scored a run in the bottom of the first, only to see Cody score three in the top of the third on a pair of home runs to lead 6-1.
Lovell rallied for two runs in the bottom of the third when Bischoff walked, advanced to second on a base hit by Wassmer and scored in a single by Rodriguez. Jackson hit a sacrifice fly to score Wassmer.
Cody plated two in the fifth and six in the sixth to lead 14-3, and the Mustangs scored three in the bottom of the sixth to make the score 14-6. But Cody scored five more in the seventh to run away with the game.
The Mustangs tried six pitchers in game two: Blake Wilson, Bischoff, Hedges, Kyle Wilson, Walker and Rodriguez. The six hurlers allowed 19 runs on eight hits and 13 walks, striking out just one Cody batter.
Wassmer had three hits to lead the Lovell offense. Rodriguez, Jackson, Hedges and Files had one hit apiece.
Green River tourney
The Mustangs will hope to regroup this weekend at the Green River wood bat tournament. Lovell will meet the Cheyenne Post 6 Hawks Thursday at 3 p.m., the Post 4 Razorbacks Friday at 10 a.m. and Rawlins Friday at 12:30 p.m.
Jameson said he might schedule a game with Lockwood, Montana, on Tuesday.