February 6, 2012

WNC Grabs Three of Four in Series

Wildcats Roar: Best No. 1 Central Arizona

Unranked in the January 26 National Junior College Association baseball poll, Western Nevada College unpretentiously went about changing that omission during a four-game set with No. 1-ranked Central Arizona College last weekend in Las Vegas. WNC took three of four games from the top-rated Vaqueros, including a pair of double-digit victories.

"I don't think our guys are putting much stock in polls. We're just trying to get better," said WNC Coach D.J. Whittemore, whose club, however, is ranked 14th in the Collegiate Baseball's preseason poll and is 18th in the latest Perfect Game's JUCO poll. "They had a magnificent challenge in front of them, and they responded really well."

The Wildcats began the weekend with a 15-4 drubbing of the Vaqueros, scoring 11 unanswered runs after falling behind 4-3 after four innings. Alex Schmidt hit a go-ahead single in the sixth inning, and a two-RBI base hit by Dillon Ness later in the inning put WNC ahead 7-4. The Wildcats added plenty of insurance runs late, scoring eight times over the final three innings. Leadoff hitter Taylor Smart had a two-run single in WNC's four-run seventh inning, and the Wildcats scored three times in the ninth with the benefit of only one hit. Derrick Pitts, who led the Wildcats with four RBI, stroked a three-run homer in the third inning, giving them a brief 3-2 lead.

Pitcher Matt Robertson held Central Arizona scoreless over the final 5 1/3 innings. In relief of starter Anthony Consiglio, Robertson showed command of his throws, allowing three hits while not walking a batter.

"Matt's performance really set the tone for the whole weekend, and Pitts' three-run homer was a real confidence boost for the team," Whittemore said.

In game two, three Western Nevada pitchers nearly threw a perfect game at the Vaqueros. Starting pitcher Tyler Spencer dealt five hitless innings of near perfection before departing. After hitting the first batter he faced, Spencer set down the next 15 hitters, including three on strikes.

Central Arizona leadoff hitter Jorges Flores broke up the no-hitter with a one-out single in the sixth inning. That put runners on first and third bases, but relievers Pitts and Andrew Woeck preserved the shutout. Woeck fanned Cameron Harper for the second out, and Pitts induced Fernando Perez to fly out to end the threat. Woeck returned to the mound in the seventh, retiring the Vaqueros in order, two by strikeout, to complete the one-hitter.

"Those pitchers deserve credit," Whittemore said of the opponents. "They have a great hitting team; it's a phenomenal lineup. I'm hoping it's the best that we see."

Smart scored the only run the Wildcats needed as Pitts plated him from second base on a one-out single to left in the first. The Wildcats added their final run in the third inning with a couple of extra-base hits. Ness doubled with one out and Rayne Raven delivered a two-out triple to score Ness.

Central Arizona salvaged its only win in the four-game set with a 7-4 victory in the second game Saturday, ending the Wildcats' five-game winning streak. Western Nevada fell behind 6-1 through four innings before touching up Vaqueros starter Alex Hill for two runs in the fifth on Pitts' two-RBI base hit. The Wildcats added another run in the sixth but stranded two runners after Schmidt lined a single to score Bobby Pappin.

Schmidt and Pitts did most of the damage at the plate for the Wildcats, combining for five of the team's eight hits and three RBI.

The Wildcats quickly started a new winning streak on Sunday, routing Central Arizona 14-3. WNC never trailed and put away the Vaqueros with a six-run fourth inning, a three-run rally in the seventh and a four-run uprising in the ninth.

Highlighting WNC's 16-hit attack was a grand slam by Schmidt in the ninth inning. Ness led the Wildcats with three hits, while AJ Hernandez, Neil Lawhorn, Cole Ferguson and Bobby Gazzola delivered two hits apiece. Lawhorn also knocked in three runs.

WNC starting pitcher Dylan Baker benefited from the Wildcats' hot-hitting day, but the 6-foot-3 right-hander was up to the task of shutting down the Vaqueros. Baker left after four innings with a shutout. He sat down eight Vaqueros on strikes and permitted three hits. Philip Belding, Brandon Show and Evan Parker closed out the win with five innings of relief between them.

The Wildcats (6-2) continue their non-conference slate with four games against Pima Community College February 10-12 at Basic High School in Henderson.

"It feels good now, but we're already getting back to work and getting ready for Pima. We're excited for another challenge," said Whittemore, whose team lost three of four to Pima a year ago.

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