Wildcats Move to 8-4 Record
Three weeks into the 2012 baseball season, Western Nevada College Coach D.J. Whittemore said he couldn't ask for much more effort out of his ball club. The Wildcats split a four-game series with Pima Community College February 10-12 in Las Vegas and Henderson, giving them an 8-4 record, only the second time in program history that the club has held a pre-conference record above .500.
"I think our team has a strong desire to win and do the work necessary during the week to make the expectation of winning a reality on the weekend," Whittemore said.
For the second straight season, Pima made it difficult for the Wildcats to scratch out some victories. WNC pitcher Andrew Woeck, however, made the result in the series opener on Friday an anomaly. Behind six shutout innings from the 5-foot-10 Woeck, the Wildcats routed Pima 9-1. Woeck surrendered just two hits, didn't walk a batter and fanned eight.
"Andrew was brilliant," Whittemore said. "He really set a great tone for us."
The Wildcats staked Woeck to a 6-0 lead by the second inning. "It's always nice to pitch to a lead," Whittemore said. "It takes away a lot of their running game and pressure."
Relief pitchers Brandon Show and Evan Parker split up the final three innings, preventing Pima from putting together a rally to threaten Western Nevada's big lead.
AJ Hernandez and Rayne Raven provided the offensive spark for the Wildcats. Hernandez was 3 for 4 with two runs scored and a walk, while Raven was 2 for 4 with a double, walk, run and RBI. Bobby Gazzola added a hit, walk, run and RBI to the Wildcats' attack.
Saturday’s doubleheader in Henderson, however, was a different story. For the most part, Pima silenced the Western Nevada bats, winning 3-0 and 6-4.
Jose Gomez didn't allow WNC to duplicate their game-one performance, pitching the distance in blanking the Wildcats. Gomez, who allowed four hits and struck out five, worked his way out of a seventh-inning jam to complete the shutout. A walk to Gazzola and a Derrick Pitts double sent WNC runners to second and third bases with two outs. But the rally ended there.
"He's one of the best pitchers we've faced this year," Whittemore said. "We had a lot of good at-bats and a lot of hard contact. He threw three pitches for strikes, and that's a good recipe for success."
WNC Freshman Alex Schmidt collected two of hits off Gomez, and Pitts doubled in three plate appearances.
The pitching efforts of Tyler Spencer and Austin Richmond enabled the Wildcats to stay close. Spencer gave up two earned runs in 3 1/3 innings, and Richmond came out of the bullpen to hold Pima scoreless over the final 3 2/3 innings, giving up just two hits and a walk while striking out three.
"Austin was really sharp," Whittemore said.
Western Nevada left a chance for a doubleheader split on the base paths in the nightcap. Pima walked seven Wildcats, but only two came around to score.
"I have trouble of finding fault at our offensive approach, and you always look good when you drive in runners with two outs, but when you leave runners on base, it's hard to win," Whittemore said.
Tony Guidara paced the Wildcats' offense, going 2 for 3 and scoring twice.
Four errors hurt WNC's chances of turning the tables on Pima.
WNC, however, rediscovered the winning formula against Pima on Sunday. The Wildcats used the long ball, dominant pitching and a timely hit and double steal to salvage a series split.
Dillon Ness homered to put WNC ahead 1-0, and the Wildcats broke a 1-1 tie by scoring three times in the eighth inning. Hernandez started the rally with a walk and advanced to third on a Ness single. Ness moved up to second base when the center fielder bobbled the ball. After Pitts was hit by a pitch to fill the bases, the Wildcats executed a double steal to break the tie. Raven followed with a groundout to score Ness for a 3-1 Wildcat lead, then Mike Umscheid delivered a double to plate Pitts, putting WNC ahead 4-1.
Relief pitching also played a key role in WNC's win. Philip Belding tossed a three-hitter over 6 2/3 innings of the bench. He struck out two and walked two.
"We allowed 12 runs in four games; the entire pitching staff did a nice job," Whittemore said. "We still have areas to improve upon, namely forcing them to hit their way on base if we expect a better result than 2-2 against a good program like Pima."
Belding was backed up by stellar glove work on the left side of the infield by shortstop Taylor Smart and third baseman Schmidt. And Whittemore didn't want to leave out the contribution that freshman catcher Cole Ferguson made in stopping the Wildcats' season-high two-game losing streak.
"Anytime you can hold a team to two runs in nine innings, your catcher deserves credit," he said.
WNC (8-4 overall record) plays at San Diego City College on February 15 before heading to Riverside for a three-game series February 16-18.
"We are looking forward to the challenge of playing in Southern California, where we have been beaten and bloodied in the past," Whittemore said.
Afterward, the Wildcats will have nearly a two-week break to prepare for their Scenic West Conference-opening series March 2-3 against Colorado Northwestern Community College in Rangely, Colo.
Press Release: February 13, 2012
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