It’s been a tough stretch for the Lovell Mustangs. The local American Legion A team lost seven of eight games last week and early this week, dropping a conference doubleheader in Cody last Wednesday, splitting a home doubleheader with Riverton Thursday, dropping two in Riverton Monday and falling to Douglas and Powell in a triangular mini-tournament in Powell Tuesday.
Consistency has been the biggest challenge for the Mustangs during the recent stretch, manager Michael Jameson said, as the team can look strong in one game but struggle in the next against the same opponent.
“Our biggest hurdle all year has been playing well in both ends of a doubleheader,” Jameson said. “We’ll play well first game then sometimes go flat in the second game. We’re trying to play solid baseball without so many letdowns.”
A perfect example of the up and down play was the conference doubleheader in Cody last Wednesday, June 10. The Cody Cubs stopped Lovell 6-1 in a well-played game one but the Mustangs struggled in the second game.
In the first contest the Mustangs hung tough with the Cubs, trailing 3-0 after five innings and plating a run in the top of the sixth, only to see Cody plate three in the bottom of the frame to extend the lead. Lovell had only three hits in the game, two by Satchel Ginest.
“We were in that game the whole way, just a couple of hits away from putting more runs on the board,” Jameson said. “With a couple of more hits it could have been a different outcome.”
Jess Wambeke was solid on the mound for Lovell, allowing eight hits and six runs in 5 2/3 innings of work, striking out seven and walking three. Tyson Christiansen got the final out for the Mustangs.
Game two was all Cody, 16-1, as the Cubs battered four Lovell pitchers for 10 hits and seven walks in four innings. Lovell led 1-0 in the second before Cody scored six in the bottom of the second, five in the third and five in the fourth.
Christiansen and Carlos Rodriguez had the only hits for Lovell.
“It’s a matter of putting it all together,” Jameson said. “It seems in the games where we pitch well we maybe don’t play as good defense and when we play good defense we don’t score very many runs. It’s a matter of being consistent in all three aspects of the game.”
Split at home
The Mustangs hosted Riverton for their home opener Thursday evening at the Cowley American Legion field, winning game one 8-4 but dropping the nightcap 22-0.
Nate Minemyer threw well for Lovell in the first game, allowing nine hits and four runs in a seven-inning complete game, fanning three and walking just one Raider batter.
“Nate is just a bulldog for us out there,” Jameson said. “In every game he’s determined to bring his best stuff and wants to give us a chance to win. He has a very good understanding of how to pitch instead of just going out there and throwing. Our guys have figured out when Nate is on the mound we’ll be in the game and they play well behind him.”
Wambeke led the offense, setting the stage from his leadoff spot with three hits, two runs and one run batted in. Christiansen went 2-3 with a run and three RBIs, Will Spann 2-3 with a pair of runs.
The Mustangs were never really in the second game of the twin bill, allowing two runs in the first, eight in the second, three in the third, six in the fourth and three more in the fifth before the game ended on the mercy rule. Lovell coaches tried three pitchers in the game who allowed 19 hits. Ginest and Spann had the only hits for Lovell.
“It was one of those things where everything that could go wrong did go wrong,” Jameson said. “It was one of those games you just want to forget about.”
Two in Riverton
After having the weekend off, the rested Mustangs played well in Riverton Monday, falling to the Raiders 4-2 and 6-5 in a non-conference doubleheader.
Each team scored two runs in the first inning of game one, and Riverton scratched out single runs in the fifth and sixth while holding the Mustangs scoreless over the final six innings.
RBI singles by CJ Pickett and Spann gave Lovell the early lead, but the Mustangs couldn’t break through again, unable to take advantage of strong pitching by Pickett, Wambeke and Ginest. Pickett started and took the loss, allowing three of the four runs on seven hits and five walks while fanning five in 4 2/3 innings. Wambeke allowed one run and Ginest got the final out.
“We had seven hits but didn’t really string much together,” Jameson said.
The Mustangs had only one bad inning in game two, allowing four runs in the fifth that erased a 2-1 Lovell lead. Trailing 5-2, Lovell battled back with a run in the sixth and two in the seventh to tie the score 5-5, but Riverton plated a run in the bottom of the inning to win.
Christiansen started for Lovell and was strong for most of the game. Only a three-run triple and an RBI double hurt him in the fifth as he went six innings, allowing six runs, five earned, on seven hits and a pair of walks while whiffing six. He walked the first batter in the seventh and was relieved by Ezra Harlow, who walked another batter and allowed the winning single.
Lovell had a chance to take the lead in the top of the seventh, loading the bases with no outs. Christiansen tripled home Harlow and Cale Wright, but Ginest was thrown out at the plate. Christiansen ended up being stranded at third.
Tough sledding in Powell
First-inning mistakes set the stage for a 14-10 loss to Douglas in a triangular at Powell Tuesday afternoon. Four errors, two walks, a wild pitch and a balk were all part of a four-run first inning for the Douglas Cats. Lovell rallied for three in the bottom of the inning, but Douglas came right back for three more in the second to lead 7-3, forcing the Mustangs to play catch-up the entire game.
Trailing 14-6, Lovell rallied for four runs in the bottom of the seventh to put a scare in the Cats. After walks loaded the bases, Lane Herman singled to score Pickett and Minemyer was hit by a pitch to force in a second run, cutting the lead to 14-8.
Spann and Herman scored on fielder’s choice grounders, but a single by Ginest and a walk to Christiansen loaded the bases again with two outs before Douglas recorded the final out.
Douglas out-hit Lovell 14-7 in the game, and errors plagued the Lovell defense.
“We had seven errors and multiple miscues that we just can’t have,” Jameson said. “We spotted them four runs in the first and were playing catch-up after that.”
Wambeke started and pitched five innings for the Mustangs, fanning eight Cat batters. Ginest pitched the final two frames. Ginest had a pair of hits for the Lovell nine, including a double.
Game two was similar. The Mustangs got down 8-0 against Powell before coming back to lose 9-4. Minemyer went the distance for Lovell, allowing 11 hits and nine runs, seven earned, in six innings of work. Lovell had only two hits, one each by Wambeke and Christiansen. The Mustangs took advantage of nine Pioneer walks.
Asked about the tough Tuesday, Jameson noted, “They don’t seem to be tired. We’re just trying to put all three areas together (pitching, hitting, fielding). Just a matter of getting consistent play all the way around.”
Six at home
The Mustang road warriors will finally see their home field again Monday when they host the Billings Halos for a pair at 5 and 7 p.m. in Cowley. The Mustangs stay home for a pair Wednesday, hosting Riverton at 4 and 6 p.m., then host Cody Friday, June 26, for a non-conference twin bill at 5 and 7.
After playing 10 of their first 12 games on the road, Jameson said it will be good to play at home next week and also get some injured players back. Soon to return are Bishop Trainor (broken hand) and Carlos Rodriguez (jammed foot). Wambeke has been nursing an injured knee. Branson Robison is also joining the team after fulfilling a work commitment that has kept him off the field.
By David Peck