Mustangs sweep Riverton in home opener

Stormy Jameson

The Lovell Mustangs American Legion baseball team went 2-0 on Saturday against the Riverton Raiders in the season’s home opener in Cowley.
The Mustangs defeated the Raiders 8-3 and 8-2 in the doubleheader.
In game one, Lovell jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning as Lafe Files tripled to knock in two runs.
Offensively, the Mustangs fared much better against Riverton than their previous outing in Billings.
Lovell had 11 hits at the plate and only surrendered five outs via strikeout.
Files was perfect at the plate during the game, going 3-for-3, scoring two runs and driving in two runs.
Cash Wassmer was again solid behind the plate at catcher and went 3-for-4 batting in the leadoff position.
“It was good to see us cut down on strikeouts overall and put the ball in play,” Mustangs coach Michael Jameson said. “I still feel like we left a lot of runners in scoring position that we failed to get on the board, but it was good to see runners on base.”
After the four-run first inning, Lovell had multiple runners in scoring position in the second and third innings and failed to take advantage of the situations before scoring four more runs over the next three at-bats.
Alex Hedges earned the win on the mound for the Mustangs, throwing four complete innings and allowing four hits and two runs while striking out five and walking none.
Matthew Newman collected the save for Lovell by coming in and completing the final three innings, giving up only two hits and one run and striking out three Raiders.
“I thought we threw the ball extremely well again for this point in the season,” Jameson noted. “It was good to get some other guys starts on the mound and start working into a rotation.”
The Mustangs are trying to keep their hurlers at a pitch count of around 60 pitches per game to get their arms into shape this early in the season, and that dictates how far they go into the game.
Defensively, the Mustangs made some good heads-up plays in the field to shut down the Raiders’ opportunities.
At one point, the Raiders tried a delayed steal between first and second base to allow a runner to score from third, but Newman executed the defensive play perfectly that resulted in the out at home.
Shortstop Carlos Rodriguez showed off his golden glove in the field with many excellent plays at the position.
“Carlos makes difficult plays look routine that not many others would be able to make,” Jameson said of his veteran shortstop.
Jacob Bischoff also led by example on the base paths with some heads-up base running.
“That’s how we want to run the bases all the time,” said Jameson. “We want to be aggressive, and he basically stole us a run that gave us momentum and set a good tone for success.”
Rodriguez ended with two hits in the game, while Tucker Jackson, Kyle Wilson and Bischoff each had a hit apiece.
Game two
In the second game, it was Riverton that struck first to take a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the third before Jack Pharaoh connected with a base hit to right field to score two runs and take the lead for the Mustangs.
Pharaoh also contributed on defense with an impressive sliding catch down the right field line in the top of the fifth to get the Mustangs out of a jam.
Offensively, the middle of Lovell’s lineup carried a majority of the load.
The trio of Jackson, Files and Bischoff hit for a combined 9-out-of-10 at the plate.
“We still have some guys not completely back in full swing where they want to be hitting, but other guys are stepping up to take the pressure off them and manufacture runs,” Jameson said.
Their goal is to be able to score consistently and score runs in every inning instead of just relying on the one big inning.
On the hill, Blake Wilson was able to take his pitch count through the fifth inning and only allowed one hit, one run and one walk with two strikeouts in the outing.
“For his first start in a few years, I was really happy with his effort,” Jameson continued. “He will continue to get stronger and provide good innings for us this year.”
Kyle Wilson came in and provided temporary relief before Jackson came in and slammed the door on the Raiders.
In his two innings on the mound, Jackson got all six outs courtesy of his combination of fastballs and curveballs to strike out the side and blank the Raiders.
Files remained perfect on the day with four hits in four at bats, while Bischoff connected with three of his own and Jackson finished 2-for-2.
Pharoah, Hedges and Wassmer also had individual hits.
Looking ahead
The Mustangs travel to Sheridan this weekend to face the Sheridan AA squad on Saturday and the single-A roster on Sunday.
Lovell will have a handful of players missing due to the regional track meets and will have a challenge facing the higher AA level competition.
“This is a good opportunity for guys battling for playing time to get some at-bats,” said Jameson. “Even without a full roster, we look forward to getting to play and facing a high-quality team.”
Games are scheduled to start at 5 and 7 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Sunday afternoon in Sheridan.