Mustangs coming on strong in Legion baseball
The Lovell Mustangs are continuing to play better and better baseball, splitting their most recent six games including a second-place finish at the Bollin Tournament in Douglas over the weekend.
Last Wednesday, July 10, the Mustangs traveled to Riverton for a non-conference doubleheader and split the pair, falling 10-9 in game one and winning the nightcap 8-6 at Roy Peck Field.
Traveling to Douglas Friday, the Mustangs stopped the Green River Knights, the top team in the Southwest A Division, 7-3, fell to host Douglas 5-2, beat Riverton in the semifinals 4-2 and fell to Douglas in the title game, 12-4.
Lovell manager Steven Durtsche said the Mustangs should have swept the twin bill in Riverton last Wednesday but gave Riverton credit for coming back. The Mustangs led 6-3 after scoring five runs in the top of the second inning, but Riverton rallied to score three in the second and two in the third to lead 8-6.
The Mustangs scored three in the fourth to lead 9-8, but the bats went quiet and they didn’t score again, while Riverton plated one in the fourth and the go-ahead run in the fifth to win 10-9.
“We were hitting the ball fine,” Durtsche said. “We’ve been hitting the ball for the last two weeks, which was nice to see. But Riverton kept responding with hits of their own. They put a run on the board every inning except the last one.”
Lovell pounded out 15 hits in the game led by Dillon Pickett and Calder Forcella, who had three hits each. Pickett was 3-4 with a homerun and a double, Forcella 3-5. Dylan Hultgren, Tony Rodriguez and Aaron Monterde had two hits each.
CJ Murphey started for the Mustangs on the mound and was relieved by Dillon Pickett.
In game two it was the Mustangs who rallied from behind to take the win. Riverton got to starter Pickett for two runs in the first and four in the second to lead 6-1. Hultgren relieved and blanked the Raiders over the next five innings.
Lovell fought back two runs in the third and three in the fourth to tie the score. The Mustangs added single runs in the sixth and seventh to win. Calder Forcella had a key two-run double during the fourth-inning rally, then scored the tying run on a Pickett single. Pickett scored the go-ahead run in the sixth after singling and stealing second and third. He scored on a base hit by Tony Rodriguez.
Pickett was 3-4 in the game, while Forcella, Hultgren and Caleb Horrocks had two hits each. Doing what a leadoff hitter should do, Horrocks reached base five times and scored four runs.
As for mound duties, Pickett has been struggling a bit, Durtsche said, but has the right stuff to return to top form. Hultgren silenced the Riverton bats and had run off a streak of 15 straight innings without allowing a run, the manager said.
“He lets them hit the ball and we have a good enough defense to make most of the plays,” Durtsche said.
Green River is currently 25-15 on the season and 3-0 in the Class A Southwest, but the Lovell Mustangs opened the Bollin Wood Bat Tournament with a 7-3 win over the Knights Friday.
Lovell got off to a good start, plating three runs in the top of the first inning. Green River picked away at starter Horrocks to score one run in the first, second and third innings to tie the score, but Lovell exploded for four runs in the sixth while Hultgren pitched 4 2/3 innings of relief.
“Caleb did a pretty good job,” Durtsche said. “He was a little nervous for his first start this year. It was a good win for us. Green River has won the Southwest Conference.
“We knew it would be a tough game coming in, and the win gave us a little momentum for the rest of the tournament, knowing we can play with anybody.”
Horrocks allowed three runs on three hits in 2 1/3 innings of work. Hultgren blanked the Knights over the final 4 2/3 innings on two hits with seven strikeouts.
The Mustangs took on the hometown Douglas Cats Saturday and fell 5-2 after putting up a good fight.
Calder Forcella reached on an error and scored in the top of the first for the Mustangs, but Douglas responded with two in the bottom of the frame against Forcella in the bottom of the inning, than added one in the third to lead 3-1.
Lovell made it 3-2 with a tally in the fourth as Forcella walked and scored, but Douglas scored a pair of insurance runs in the fifth. Lovell could manage only two hits in the game.
“Calder did really well,” Durtsche said. “It seems like every team we play gets a few bloop hits over first or second base. They were the eventual champs and we played ‘em close. If we would have hit the ball the outcome would have been better. We had a chance to beat them.”
Lovell beat Riverton Sunday, 4-2, to reach the title game. Steven Pickett was back on the mound after battling a back injury and allowed just two runs in seven innings on eight hits. He fanned five.
“Steven wasn’t 100 percent; he was probably 60 percent,” Durtsche said. “But he threw strikes. You can count on him to let the team play defense.”
Lovell scored three runs in the second inning on an RBI single by Dawson Forcella and a two-run single by Hultgren. The Mustangs added a single run in the third as Rodriguez singled and scored. Riverton scored single runs in the first and seventh.
Errors cost the Mustangs in their second game of the tournament against the Douglas Cats Sunday, Durtsche said. Dillon Pickett was on the mound and did well, the manager said, but three errors led to a six-run second inning, and that gave the home team an 8-0 lead.
Lovell scored three in the top of the third, but Douglas answered with three in the bottom of the frame to lead 11-3 and added a run in the fourth. Lovell added a final run in the fifth when Dillon Pickett walked and scored on a single by Monterde.
Murphey relieved Pickett on the mound for the Mustangs.
“It was a good tournament for us,” Durtsche said. “We played well. The guys were happy. We finished second, which was nice, and gained confidence. The guys know we can beat anybody.”
The Mustangs struggled Tuesday at home, falling to the Douglas Cats 13-2 and 13-5 in Cowley. Now 10-21, the Mustangs will wrap up the conference season Friday when they host the Cody Cubs at 5 p.m. They host Miles City Saturday at 5 p.m. to wrap up the regular season.
The District Tournament is scheduled for July 25-27 in Douglas.
by David Peck