Western Nevada College ended a demanding 11-game stretch on the road over the weekend to start the Scenic West Athletic Conference, splitting four games with North Idaho College February 24-25 to hold onto fourth place in the standings.
The Wildcats won the second and third games against North Idaho at Larson Field in Moses Lake, Wash., improving to 6-5 in the SWAC.
"They've maintained great focus when we've been out on the road," said WNC Coach Leah Wentworth of her team. "They try to get as much rest as they can, and they've been mentally prepared for the games on the road."
Throughout the team's five weeks of games away from home, the Wildcats have been often limited to one day of hitting practice and another day of glove work.
"When we travel, our destinations have been pretty far away, so our travel days are six to eight hours," Wentworth said. Unplayable field conditions moved the series from Memorial Field in Coeur d'Alene to Moses Lake.
WNC scored twice in the seventh inning to outlast North Idaho 7-5 in the second game of a doubleheader on Friday. Ashley Gleason and Jordan Thomas scored on a two-out infield error to break a 5-5 tie.
Alexia Alley retired three of the four batters she faced in the bottom of the seventh to clinch the victory. She relieved starter Jordan Garcia in the sixth, tossing two scoreless innings. Garcia worked five innings, giving up nine hits and four earned runs while setting down four hitters on strikes.
Leadoff hitter Jennifer Quam collected three of WNC's eight hits, while Taleas Marble had a double among her two hits, and Trinity Thom was 2-3. Gleason topped the Wildcats with two runs scored.
In the opener, North Idaho's Emily Perlich pitched the distance, permitting only four WNC hits and striking out six in the Cardinals' 7-1 victory. The Wildcats tied the score at 1 in the top of the third as Alia Cox homered to lead off the inning. But the Cardinals scored six times off Alley in the bottom of the frame as Western Nevada committed all four of its errors.
Quam accounted for two of the WNC hits, and the Wildcats stranded six base runners.
The teams also split their doubleheader on Saturday, with the Wildcats fending off the Cardinals 4-3 n the opener, then losing game two, 7-4. The split enabled WNC to remain a half game ahead of the Cardinals for fourth place in the SWAC.
Alley also came away with the win in the circle in game three. She one-hit the Cardinals through three innings before giving way to Ali-Marie Lostra, who tossed the final four innings. Lostra surrendered four hits and two earned runs, and fanned four.
Marble delivered a two-run homer in the third inning, providing the Wildcats with a 3-0 lead.
"We can always count on her to come through with a hit when we need her," Wentworth said.
But North Idaho scored twice in its half of the third, making the score 3-2.
In the fifth, Melanie Pfeiffer gave WNC some breathing room after hitting a one-out single. Pfeiffer moved to second on a force out, stole third base and scored on a wild pitch, putting WNC ahead 4-2. The run proved pivotal as North Idaho scored once in its last at-bat and had the tying run on third base before Lostra coaxed a groundout to Pfeiffer at short to end the game.
Marble, who now has hit six homers, led the Wildcats with two hits and two RBI.
In game two, North Idaho scored five times in the first three innings to grab a 5-1 lead. However, the Wildcats bounced back to score twice in the fourth and once in the fifth to pull within a run, 5-4. Cox and Lostra scored unearned runs for WNC in the fourth, and Marble touched home on a passed ball in the fifth. North Idaho prevented the tying run from scoring, cutting down Thomas at the plate on a ground ball to third.
The Cardinals added two runs in the sixth to wrap up the series split.
Pfeiffer went 3-4 and scored a run, and Marble was 2-3 with a run scored.
Western Nevada (11-14 overall) has a chance to take over third place in the SWAC when the
Wildcats play host to third-place Snow College in their home-opening series March 2-3 at Edmonds Sports Complex in Carson City. First pitch for the Friday doubleheader is 1 p.m., while the Saturday double dip begins at noon.
"We're really excited to be at home," Wentworth said. "We've never come out on top against Snow. This will be a challenging week for us, and we're hoping to come out with some wins."
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