March 10, 2012

'Cats Take One Against Southern Nevada

The hits kept coming for the Wildcats softball team during their four-game series March 9-10 in Henderson. But cross-state rival College of Southern Nevada got the upper hand in the end, taking three of four from WNC.

WNC produced 45 hits on the weekend, including three homers by Taleas Marble.

Southern Nevada and Western Nevada split the Friday games, with the Coyotes winning 7-6 before the Wildcats evened the series in a 7-5 decision. But Southern Nevada swept the second day, rallying for a 9-7 victory and winning 13-5 in six innings.

“We really reduced our strikeouts from the last weekend,” said WNC Coach Leah Wentworth. “If you put the ball in play, you make things happen.”

To decrease their strikeouts, Wentworth and her coaching staff made several adjustments to their hitters’ approach during practices leading up to the series.

“We shortened up their swings with two strikes because they were taking cuts that were too big with two strikes,” Wentworth said. “Some of them were even using the shortened swing (earlier in the count).”

Trinity Thom and Katirina Rand each rattled Coyote pitchers for three hits, and winning pitcher Alexia Alley allowed just one run through five innings in WNC’s victory. WNC scored in five of the seven innings, pushing across two runs in the second and a much-needed two-run scoring flurry in the seventh.

Jennifer Quam’s two-run double plated Thom and Rand in the second to give WNC a 2-0 lead. In the seventh, Ali-Marie Lostra slammed a one-out double to right field, then pinch-runner Emily Nagel advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Thom’s base hit to center. Thom moved to third on Rand’s double to left on a full count and touched the plate on a wild pitch.

CSN scored four runs in its last at-bat to tighten the score. Lostra recorded the final two outs to pick up the save.

In addition to the damage done by Rand and Thom, Quam and Alia Cox delivered two hits to WNC’s 14-hit attack.

Western Nevada nearly pulled off a final-inning comeback to win the series opener. Trailing 6-4 entering the seventh, the Wildcats loaded the bases with no one out. Quam reached second base on a dropped fly ball and went to third on Melanie Pfeiffer’s base hit to right. Four straight balls to Niki DiSera filled the bags. A passed ball moved the runners up a base, sending Quam home to make the score 6-5. Marble’s base on balls refilled the bases, and after an out, Thom’s infield single drove home Pfeiffer with the tying run. WNC missed an opportunity to take the lead as the next two hitters went down on strikes.

The Coyotes’ Tuiuli Felise scored on a wild pitch with one out in the bottom of the seventh for the game-winning run.

Although reliever Alley took the loss, she struck out four and allowed two runs in 3 1/3 innings of relief.

The top of the Wildcats’ lineup did most of the damage. Leadoff hitter Quam was 2-3 with four runs scored, No. 2 hitter Pfeiffer went 3-4 with two runs scored and No. 3 and 4 hitters DiSera and Marble rapped two hits and knocked in two runs. Thom added two hits and drove in a run.

In the series finale, Marble swatted a pair of home runs. She homered to lead off the fourth and fifth innings and now has a school record nine round-trippers for the season.

Pfeiffer led the Wildcats with a 3-3 day at the plate, while Rand had two hits in three at-bats. Desiree Laswell also homered twice for Southern Nevada and drove home four runs.

WNC scored four times in the fourth to go ahead 4-1 and added a run in the fifth for a 5-3 edge, but the Coyotes pushed across two runs in the fifth and eight in the sixth to end the game.

“We just have to do a better job of tightening up our defense in the later innings,” said Wentworth, who noted that her club was ahead or tied in the sixth or seventh innings in each game.

Lostra, who held the Coyotes to one run through three innings, went the distance for the Wildcats. She caught a liner to start a double play after Southern Nevada had scored two runs in the sixth, but the Coyotes went on to score six more runs, including Laswell’s game-ending two-run homer.

In the first game on March 10, the Wildcats were productive early, scoring all of their runs in the first three innings. Rand was one of four Wildcats with two hits and finished with three RBI. Her two-run single in the second gave WNC a 5-2 lead. But the Coyotes scored four runs in the second to take a brief 6-5 lead.

WNC responded with two runs in the third to regain the lead, 7-6. Cox started the rally with a double to left field. Alley’s sacrifice bunt moved Cox to third, and Cox scored on Jordan Thomas’ second double of the game. Thomas advanced to third on an illegal pitch and scored the go-ahead run on Pfeiffer’s base hit.

The back-and-forth scoring continued as Lianna Bajarin tripled and scored in the fourth to tie the score at 7.

Western Nevada left four runners on base in the fourth through sixth innings, and CSN went ahead in its half of the sixth as Alicia Firelein and Bajarin hit back-to-back home runs.

The Wildcats threatened in the seventh after two outs were recorded. Quam walked on four pitches, and Pfeiffer reached on a fielding error, but winning pitcher Laswell clinched the win by getting a fly out to end the rally.

Lostra threw a scoreless inning for the Wildcats in relief of Jordan Garcia and Alley.

Rand, Pfeiffer, Cox and Thomas each collected two hits for the Wildcats, while Quam and Pfeiffer scored two runs apiece.

The three defeats dropped WNC to 8-11 and into sixth place in the SWAC, but the Wildcats are only 1 ½ games out of a third-place logjam, where three teams share .500 records. Salt Lake Community College tops the seven-team conference with a 16-4 mark.

“We’re really close,” Wentworth said. “I just feel like we have been continually improving in different areas. There isn’t one team dominating this conference, so anything is possible. Our goal is to come on strong at the end of the season when it counts the most.”

WNC (13-20 overall) returns home to play second-place College of Southern Idaho on March 16-17 at Edmonds Sports Complex, Field 1. Game times are 11, 1 and 3 p.m. on March 16, and noon on March 17.

Press Release: March 14, 2012

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