The Lovell Mustangs hit the meat of their conference schedule over the last two weeks, splitting four games with the Riverton Raiders and sweeping the Powell Pioneers at home in Cowley Tuesday, 4-1 and 14-4.
The Mustangs were 2-4 in conference play after dropping both ends of a doubleheader Tuesday, June 28, in Cowley, and they split with Riverton Wednesday in Riverton, edging the Raiders 8-7 in the first game and dropping the nightcap 11-10. Friday in Greybull, the Mustangs again split a twin bill, falling to Riverton 11-0 in game one but stopping the Raiders 6-4 in the second contest, leaving both Lovell and Riverton 4-6 in the conference, tied for second place, with final conference games against Powell looming.
Tuesday’s sweep left the Mustangs 6-6 in conference play and clinched at least a second-place tie in the standings behind undefeated Cody.
The Mustangs exploded for six runs in the second inning and later led Riverton 8-0 before hanging on to win game one 8-7 June 29 in Riverton. An RBI single by Riley Hill, a bases-loaded walk by Cole Wambeke, a two-run single by Dawson Forcella and a two-run double by Jeremy Schneider plated six runs for Lovell in the second, and the Mustangs added a run by Dakota Bond on a wild pitch in the third and a sacrifice fly by Wambeke to score Will Lillard in the fifth to lead 8-0 as Wambeke was cruising on the mound.
The Mustangs had a chance to get out of the bottom of the fifth without allowing a run, but a two-out error allowed the inning to continue as Riverton scored four times to trail 8-4.
“They started to hit him a little bit, and we didn’t make some plays behind him,” Lovell manager Michael Jameson said. “We should have been out of the inning.”
A three-run triple scored three more in the bottom of the sixth to turn the game into a nail-biter before Wambeke got Baylor Beers to ground out, ending the rally. Jeremy Schneider relieved Wambeke and shut Riverton down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh to preserve the win and pick up a save.
Wambeke picked up the win, allowing seven runs, only three of them earned, on eight hits and three walks in six innings, striking out one. Schneider pitched a perfect seventh with two strikeouts.
“It was a solid outing,” Jameson said. “We hit the ball pretty well, but sometimes they don’t fall. But we were able to put runs on the board, find ways to get on base and be productive.”
In game two it was Riverton’s turn to jump out on top. The Raiders plated four runs in the second and three in the third against Lovell starter Trey Dickerson to lead 7-2. Misplayed balls in the outfield were key parts of each inning for Riverton.
But Lovell didn’t quit and scored three runs in the top of the fourth and three more in the fifth to lead 8-7.
“We told them to keep chipping away every inning and to fight back,” Jameson said. “We said it was a conference game and we couldn’t afford to roll over. They did a good job.”
Riverton walked the bases loaded in the fourth, setting the stage for three Lovell runs. The Mustang bats came alive in the fifth as Justin Bacus singled and Hill doubled. Both came home on a single by Bond. After Gehrig Sweat was hit by a pitch with two outs, Wambeke singled to score Bond, giving Lovell the lead.
Riverton tied the score 8-8 with a run in the bottom of the fifth, and then both teams failed to score in the sixth and seventh as the game went to extra innings. After two more scoreless frames, the Mustangs seemed to have the game in hand when they scored two in the top of the 10th. Jeremy Schneider singled and Forcella tripled, then scored on a fielder’s choice play at the plate. Lovell led 10-8.
“That was heads-up baserunning by Dawson,” Jameson said. “He made a heck of a slide.”
Riverton rallied to win the game in the bottom of the 10th. Reliever Hill walked the first two batters, and an error on a potential double-play ball scored a run. The tying run scored when the umpire ruled that Hill balked, and Riverton won it on a single to center.
“We had our chances,” Jameson said. “It was a game we certainly could have won. We did a good job coming back and putting ourselves in a position to win. It didn’t work out that way, but it was good to push it to extra innings and be in that type of game.”
Dickerson allowed 13 hits and eight runs, but only one earned run, in seven innings of work. Schneider pitched a scoreless eighth and Hill took the loss in the 10th after throwing a scoreless ninth.
Twin bill at Greybull
The Mustangs scheduled a conference doubleheader in Greybull as a gesture to the three players from Greybull/Basin who play for the team: Forcella, Bacus and Hill.
Unfortunately, the Mustangs played a lackluster first game, despite a strong crowd and good atmosphere in Greybull, Jameson said, falling 11-0 to Riverton in five innings.
“It was a good crowd for those guys,” he said. “It was a good environment that night.”
Jameson gave hometown boy Hill the start on the mound, but the Mustangs made five errors behind him.
“We didn’t play a whole lot of defense,” Jameson said. “It was one of those games where we didn’t come out ready to play. Before we knew it it was 11-0. It was a conference game, the type of game you have to have. You can’t not be
focused and take the game off.”
Game two was a different story as the Mustangs came to play and picked up a conference win, beating the Raiders 6-4.
“We shook up the batting order and the team kind of talked among themselves,” Jameson said. “We came out with a lot more energy and a lot more effort.”
The Mustangs were strong defensively behind starter Dakota Bond, turning two timely double plays and making key plays behind him. Riverton took a 1-0 lead in the first, but Lovell pushed across three runs in the third inning and three more in the fourth.
“Our defensive intensity carried over into our at-bats,” Jameson said. “We fed off of that energy. Dakota threw a heck of a game for us. He did a good job coming out and competing and was really effective. The team stepped up behind him and did a good job battling.”
Wambeke got the Mustangs going in the third by executing a perfect drag bunt with two outs. After Schneider singled, Forcella reached on an error and Sweat drew a bases-loaded walk. Hill singled home Schneider and Forcella.
Trey Dickerson and Ross Padilla singled to start the fourth, and Bond reached on a bunt single. After two pop flies, Forcella cleared the bases with a double.
“It was nice to see both Riley and Dawson come up with big hits (in the third and fourth) and both with two outs,” Jameson said.
Riverton scored one in the fifth to make it 6-2 and plated two more in the top of the seventh. Jameson brought in Schneider, who struck out one batter and got a ground ball out to win the game with runners at second and third.
Bond picked up the win, allowing four runs in 6 1/3 innings on eight hits and four walks. Schneider recorded the save.
The Mustangs beat Powell 4-1 in game one Tuesday night in Cowley. Wambeke was masterful on the mound for Lovell, allowing just one unearned run in seven innings of work on six hits and two walks, fanning eight.
Lovell came out strong, getting out of the top of the first with a double play, then plating three runs in the bottom of the inning. Wambeke and Schneider singled to open the inning, and Wambeke scored on a throwing error. Schneider scored on a single by Bacus, advanced on an error and scored on a sacrifice fly by Sweat.
Wambeke threw five shutout innings before Powell scored in the sixth on a two-out error. Lovell got the run back in the bottom of the frame as Bond singled, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch and score on a sac fly by Schneider. Wambeke blanked Powell in the seventh to finish the win.
In game two, Powell scored two off Lovell starter Schneider in the top of the first, but the Mustang bats scored five in the bottom of the first and seven more in the third. In the first, Powell pitcher Tyler Feller walked the bases loaded with one out, and after Ben Jackson relieved, Sweat walked to score one and Hill singled home two more. Sweat scored on a ground out, and Bond drove in Hill.
Powell crept close at 5-4 with runs in the second and third, but Lovell exploded for seven runs in the bottom of the third to lead 12-4 as Powell walked in three runs and sent another home on a hit batter with the bases loaded.
Dickerson relieved Schneider on the mound in the top of the fourth and blanked Powell despite loading the bases on a walk, single and hit batter. Lovell added a run in the bottom of the frame when Forcella walked and scored on a single by Hill. After Dickerson blanked the Pioneers in the top of the fifth, the Mustangs won the game on the 10-run mercy rule when Bond singled and scored on a double by Wambeke.
The doubleheader sweep improved Lovell to a final 6-6 conference record and 14-16 overall mark and gave the Mustangs a 5-0 record against Powell this season so far.
Calling the next week busy would be a grand understatement as the Mustangs will play 13 games in eight days.
Lovell will first take part in the Billings Tournament Thursday through Sunday, meeting Miles City and the Billings Halos Thursday at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m., the Billings Blue Jays Friday at 10 a.m. and the Jackson Giants Saturday at 1 p.m., with all of Lovell’s games at the Halos’ field west of Billings.
Sunday games will be determined by a team’s record the previous three days.
Lovell will travel to Laurel Monday for a doubleheader at 5 and 7 p.m., to Cody Tuesday for a twin bill against the Cody “B” team at 5 and 7 and to Miles City Wednesday for a pair at a time still to be confirmed, Jameson said, but likely 5 and 7. The Mustangs will wrap up the long stretch Thursday, July 14, at Glendive, with games at 1 and 3 p.m.
The district tournament is July 21-23 in Cody, followed by the state Class A tournament July 27-30 in Douglas.
By David Peck