With the first games coming up in mid-May, the Lovell Mustangs have opened practice for the 2017 season hoping to build on their 2016 success that saw the Mustangs win 20 games and place fourth with two wins at the Class A State Tournament in Douglas, including upsets over Douglas and Cody.
Numerous starters return for the Mustangs, who lose Dakota Bond, Cole Wambeke and Justin Bacus from last year’s team. There have been 12 players working out so far since practice began on April 3.
Michael Jameson returns for his second season as the Mustangs’ manager, ably assisted by Jason Borders, Bryce Dickerson and Steven Durtsche. Ray Peterson remains the general manager of the program and secretary-treasurer of the senior league baseball board. Greg Rael is the new president of the board, with Joe Forcella of Greybull as the vice president.
The veteran of the squad is 18-year-old catcher Dawson Forcella, who recently signed a letter of intent to play baseball for Minot State University. He is the only “senior” on the team, Jameson said.
Juniors (or 17-year-olds) on the team are second baseman/pitcher Trey Dickerson, outfielder/pitcher Riley Hill, outfielder/pitcher Wyatt Horrocks, infielder/pitcher Juan Rivera and first baseman/pitcher Jeremy Schneider.
Hill, Forcella and Wambeke made the Class A All-State team following the season.
Younger players on the team include sophomores (16-year-olds) Ethan Hessenthaler and Brock Hill, 15-year-olds Felipe Gaytan and Jordan Vasquez and 14-year-olds Dallen Mangus and Jess Wambeke, Jameson said.
One of the new rules the team will be dealing with this season is a pitch count that the national American Legion Baseball organization has adopted using “Pitch Smart” guidelines based on age of the player, number of innings pitched, required rest and other factors, Jameson said.
“It’ll affect everybody,” he said. “Even if one kid is capable of pitching more (innings) than others, we must adhere to those guidelines. Kids who don’t think they’re pitchers will get to pitch. It’s an opportunity for everyone to pitch.
“It will be a challenge to us. A lot more decisions will have to be made and strategy considered when it comes to things like conference games.”
Jameson said there are 41 games scheduled, currently, and he hopes to add about four more to reach 45. The Mustangs open the season Sunday, May 14, in Billings against the Billings Blue Jays for a 1 p.m. doubleheader.
The Mustangs are also scheduled to travel to Sheridan on May 20 and Billings again on May 27 before hosting the Powell Pioneers on Thursday, June 1, for the home and conference opener at 5:30 p.m.
The Mustangs will host the Class A State Tournament July 26-30 in Cowley.
The team will host a barbecue and silent auction on Friday, May 5, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Lovell Fire Hall. The famous “firemen’s ribs” will be served. Tickets are available from any player or coach.
The Mustangs will host a fundraising golf tournament on Saturday, Aug. 12, at the Foster Gulch Golf Course.
Jameson also said former Powell Pioneer player Colter Bostick, who now runs Maximized Baseball and was coached by Jameson in Powell, is planning to come to the area in August for a baseball camp and may include former major league catcher Jason LaRue. Jameson said he is working out details and dates.
By David Peck