Jackson Pitches Four-Hit Shutout for WNC
It was clearly evident that Saturday was sophomore day at John L. Harvey Field.
Western Nevada College sophomores were the honorees for their final regular-season home games, and they, in turn, figured mightily in a Scenic West Athletic Conference baseball doubleheader sweep of College of Southern Nevada.
Sophomore Bobby Pappin's first home run of the season, an opposite-field shot to left, rallied the Wildcats to a 8-4 victory in the opener, and sophomore catcher Neil Lawhorn smashed a towering solo homer in the sixth for the only run as sophomore Brandon Jackson dealt WNC a 1-0 second-game victory.
"We just took the games by the horns, and we wanted to take control since it was our last day at this field," Pappin said. "We just wanted to go out with a bang."
Lawhorn's game-winning blast made some fans think of the shots Bryce Harper used to hit while wearing a CSN uniform.
"By far my longest," Lawhorn, who now has five bombs on the season. "I wasn't really thinking about (a homer). I was more into the game of putting up zeroes for B.J."
Jackson (5-1) tossed a four-hit shutout and threw a complete game.
"The day and time was just great," Jackson said. "Mostly I did it for these guys behind me; it was sophomore day."
WNC picked up a game on conference-leading Salt Lake, improving to 36-11 overall and 25-6 in the SWAC. CSN dropped to 29-19 and 16-16. Salt Lake, which split a twin bill with College of Southern Idaho, is 25-4 with eight games remaining.
"Their team played very well all weekend," said WNC Coach D.J. Whittemore of the Coyotes. "They are very well-coached, have a lot of good players and I think that they will have as good of a chance as anybody of winning the (regional) tournament."
In the opener, the Coyotes took a 4-3 lead on Jordan Van Hoosier's home run to left.
But the Wildcats had an immediate answer. Taylor Smart started the bottom of the fifth inning with a double over Sean McCracken's head in left. A sliding catch by McCracken, however, prevented Derrick Pitts from reaching base. Baker hit Hendrix with a pitch, setting the table for Pappin's game-turning home run to right.
"I thought it was going to come a lot sooner," said Pappin of his first roundtripper, which came on a 2-0 fastball. "I didn't know when it was or how it was going to happen, but I couldn't be happier about it."
Besides giving the Wildcats five strong innings on the mound, sophomore Pitts supplied WNC with some insurance in the sixth with a two-run single to center to make the score 8-4.
Pitts (3-0) retired eight of the first nine Coyotes to bat, and the only hitter who reached, Pitts picked him off. CSN nicked Pitts for four hits and three runs in the fourth; otherwise, he was in control during his five-inning stint, surrendering seven hits and four earned runs while fanning five and walking one.
After being dealt 13 strikeouts by Dylan Baker on April 20, the Coyotes countered with their own Baker on April 21: Ryan Baker, a sophomore product from Bishop Manogue High School in Reno. After weathering a shaky start, Baker battled back and limited the Wildcats to three runs before the pivotal fifth.
Coyotes second baseman Van Hoosier made a strong relay throw to prevent Smart from making it to third base with one out in the first inning. Smart's double to the gap in right-center field appeared to be well-placed for a triple, but Van Hoosier's relay throw arrived at third base just ahead of Smart.
Still, the Wildcats rallied with two outs to produce the first run of the game. After Pitts was hit by a pitch and Zach Hendrix walked, Pappin delivered a run-scoring single to left field. Baker escaped further damage by getting Dillon Ness to ground out to short.
Pitts was hitting his spots early, recording four strikeouts in the first two innings. CSN's Cory Welch reached on an infield single in the second but was quickly erased when Pitts picked him off.
Baker was no mystery to the WNC hitters in the second frame. Alex Schmidt led off with a two-bagger into the gap in right-center field. Mike Umscheid's put down a bunt along the third-base line to reach base and move Schmidt to third. Lawhorn's base hit to right scored Schmidt to make the score 2-0. Lawhorn was caught trying to steal second base, but Chris Woolley's RBI single scored Umscheid, putting WNC ahead 3-0.
The Coyotes began to catch up to Pitts' fastball in the fourth. Four straight hits pulled CSN within 3-2. Van Hoosier doubled off the right-field wall to start the rally. Ness lost his glove over the fence in his attempt to catch the well-hit ball. McCracken followed with a base hit to left, and Chad Whiteaker's line drive to center scored Van Hoosier for CSN's first run and the first earned run given up by Pitts this season. Morgan Stotts' double down the left-field line scored McCracken, and Cory Welch's groundout to short tied the score at 3. Pitts kept the score tied with a strikeout and fly out, leaving Stotts on third base.
Van Hoosier gave CSN its first lead at 4-3 with a two-out homer to left in the fifth. Pitts allowed two more base runners before getting Stotts on a hard-hit one-hopper to Woolley at short.
Sophomore Matt Robertson relieved Pitts to start the sixth and worked his way out of a mini-jam. With one out and runners on first and second bases, Robertson picked off A.J. Ford between second and third, then retired Andy Weissberg on a deep fly to right. Robertson earned his second save by retiring the Coyotes in order in the seventh.
Pappin led the Wildcats with a run scored and four RBI. Smart stroked two of the Wildcats' four extra-base hits, and Umscheid and Lawhorn also swatted two hits.
In the second game of the twin bill, starting pitchers Brandon Jackson and A.J. Daley locked up in a scoreless duel. Both starters commanded the strike zone and fooled the fastball-seeking hitters with offspeed pitches.
"I just tried to work off my fastball and let my changeup work a lot, and I think that got them on the front foot a little bit," said Jackson, who retired nine Coyotes on ground balls.
Defensive gems by Lawhorn and Whiteaker kept the base paths relatively clean. Lawhorn threw out Whiteaker trying to steal second base with one out in the fourth. Whiteaker, playing in the outfield as a second baseman, robbed Pitts of a base hit in the bottom the fourth.
Welch's double to lead off the fifth was only the third hit of the game. But Jackson buckled down, retiring the next three hitters, including two on strikes.
Daley retired 11 hitters in a row after Hendrix singled to center to open the second. But Lawhorn bashed a home run that traveled well over the left-field fence to begin the Wildcats' sixth. It was only the second hit off Daley.
"He put a charge in that ball, and I was just thankful because we are roommates, too," Jackson said. "He did a great behind the plate and had a great game all-round."
Lawhorn began his at-bat by trying to bunt his way on base. His bunt in front of the plate was called a foul ball, drawing disdain from the Coyotes' dugout. Lawhorn said his bunt attempt was called foul because it made contact with his bat twice in the batter's box.
"I was trying to find any way possible to get on base," Lawhorn said. "I felt I had an opportunity to get on with a bunt, then after two curveballs that they threw me, I was sitting fastball and got it. I just felt great, and with my mom here, it was just amazing."
Whittemore wasn't surprised by Lawhorn's timely hit.
"Like I said, he's the team MVP, so to see him come up clutch is not unexpected," Whittemore said.
The Coyotes caused some anxiety in the top of the seventh as Stotts led off with a walk and went to second base on Weissberg's two-out single to left. But Jackson coaxed one final ground ball out of the Coyotes to complete his masterful performance.
"He's persevered," Whittemore said. "We put him in the bullpen and now he earned his starting job back. Then to come out here and throw the best game of his career in a big game is awesome to see."
Jackson finished with a four-hitter, six strikeouts and one walk.
Hendrix had the Wildcats' only other hit, a base knock to start the second inning.
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