April 28, 2012

WNC Players Give Back with Cancer Fundraiser

Wildcats Battle CSN, Fall Short in Final Home Games

There were ample reasons to celebrate on April 28 at Edmonds Sports Complex, just not on the diamond.

College of Southern Nevada spoiled Western Nevada's sophomore appreciation and Strike Out Cancer day by sweeping a Scenic West Athletic Conference softball doubleheader from the Wildcats, 6-3 and 5-4.

Even though the Wildcats battled back from a 4-0 deficit in the second game, the Coyotes' Tuiuli Felise's two-out RBI single scored pinch-runner Erin Romero with the deciding run in the top of the seventh inning.

"A tough loss, that second game, but they fought really hard all the way to the end. You can't ask for any more than that," WNC Coach Leah Wentworth said.

CSN, which came into the series trailing WNC in the conference standings, took over fourth place, improving to 20-24. By losing all four games in their final home series, the Wildcats slipped to 15-26.

Saturday's final home games also served as a chance for the Wildcats to raise money for Multiple Myeloma and recognize some local cancer survivors before each game.

"The kids came up with the idea. We knew it was cancer awareness month, but they really wanted to do something to give back," Wentworth said. "I'm really proud of everything they did to pull this together. They wanted to do what they could for the community. Cancer affects everyone and so I think it really hit home with everybody and really made them realize that there is a lot to be thankful for and a lot that people are struggling for all of the time. It put some things in perspective for them."

The wind was blowing in from center field but the beneficial pitching conditions didn't bother the College of Southern Nevada's power hitters.

Hope Curtis smashed two-run and solo homers and Alicia Firelein clobbered a two-run homer to propel the Coyotes to a victory in the opening game.

The Coyotes put together a two-out rally to score first in the opening frame. Tuiuli Felise followed a base hit by Firelein with an opposite field RBI double.

WNC left two runners on base in its first at-at, squandering a leadoff double by Jennifer Quam.
In the third, WNC starter Ali Lostra left a couple of pitches up in the strike zone, and the Coyotes took advantage. Firelein belted a two-run homer to left field and Hope Curtis slammed a two-run homer to straightaway center for a 5-0 CSN lead.

After giving up the second home run, Lostra settled in to retire eight straight batters.

Unfortunately for Lostra and the Wildcats, CSN pitcher Desiree Laswell was in complete control in the circle. The 5-foot-10 sophomore from Henderson, Nev., set down 10 of 12 WNC hitters after the Wildcats put two runners on base in the first inning.

Just when it looked as if the Coyotes would cruise to the victory, the Wildcats struck for three runs in their half of the fifth. Jordan Thomas triggered the offensive awakening with a line-drive double to center. After Mikaela Henshaw was hit by a pitch and Quam reached on a fielder's choice, Melanie Pfeiffer delivered a run-scoring double to right field, bringing home Henshaw with WNC's first run. A wild pitch by Laswell reached the backstop, allowing Quam to score. An ensuring error before Laswell got the ball back in the circle enabled Pfeiffer to score and bring the Wildcats within 5-3.

But Curtis swung back the momentum to the Coyotes with a homer to left to lead off the sixth, capping the scoring.

The Wildcats missed an opportunity to cash in on a two-out rally in the sixth. Thomas' base hit to center and an infield error on Henshaw's sharp grounder put runners on first and second. However, Quam's slapper was gobbled up by third baseman Firelein, and she stepped on third base for the final out, keeping the score at 6-3.

Pfeiffer did her part to try and rally the Wildcats in the bottom of the seventh. Pfeiffer poked a single into center field for her third hit of the game. A two-out walk to Lostra brought the potential tying run to the plate, but Laswell silenced the comeback bid by getting Katirina Rand to foul out to Firelein.

Pfeiffer was 3-3 with a double, a successful sacrifice bunt, a run scored and RBI. Thomas added two hits, including a double. The Wildcats left nine runners on base, including four in the last two innings.

In the second game, the Coyotes went to work immediately, scoring four times in the first. Felise's two-run single to center scored Brigit Godfrey and Lianna Bajarin, and an outfield bobble permitted Felise and Firelein to take second and third base, respectively. Curtis picked up her fourth RBI of the day with a groundout to second, and the Coyotes scored a fourth run on Sarah Rivera's base hit.

Pfeiffer slammed a double in the bottom of the first but was thrown out at third on a ground ball by Marble. Trinity Thom connected for a base hit to center with one out in the second, but she was left on base, the seventh consecutive inning that the Wildcats left a runner on at least one bag.

Henshaw reached third base with one out in the Wildcat third but a foul popup by Pfeiffer and a deep fly to center by Marble stranded another runner.

WNC scratched out two runs in the fourth as Niki DiSera scored when the first baseman Felise dropped a throw on Thom's bunt and then Henshaw came through with a full-count RBI single to center with two outs to make the score 4-2.

The Wildcats pulled even an inning later as Pfeiffer and pinch-runner Emily Nagel scored runs. Pfeiffer, who reached on Rivera's two-base throwing error, stepped on home plate on Taleas Marble's double to the gap in right-center field. Nagel scored the tying run on Thom's two-out base hit to center.

"This shows how much heart we have and how much we play as a team," Pfeiffer said of the comeback. "We showed that (today) and yesterday we didn't really play as a team. Today, we showed up to play together. We fell short, but some games you lose and some games you win. We'll get them at conference."

Marble just missed a three-run homer in the sixth as the afternoon breeze held up her deep liner to left, allowing Nora Murphy to backpedal several steps to make the inning-ending catch. Henshaw and Quam's back-to-back hits got the rally started, then both runners advanced on Laswell's wild pitch. But second baseman Megan Jaramillo threw out Henshaw at home plate on Pfeiffer's grounder for the second out. Laswell then got out of the jam with Murphy's play in left.

The Wildcats recorded the first two outs of the seventh, including a diving catch by center fielder Henshaw. But Firelein drew a walk, and the speedy Romero subbed in as a pinch runner. Romero stole second base to move into scoring position, and the strategy paid off a batter later when Felise delivered her game-winning hit off Alexia Alley. Alley was able to finish the inning for a complete-game 10-hitter.

"There were opportunities to be out of that inning before that base hit comes up, but she kept her composure out there and kept working the zone as best as she could," Wentworth said.

After a rough first inning, where Alley gave up four runs and four hits, the freshman hurler and the defense behind her shut down the power-hitting Coyotes, blanking them from the second through the sixth innings.

"All day our pitchers gave us winnable games," Wentworth said. "They did a great job on the mound. It took us a while to get our bats going that first game, and that second game we were hitting the ball a lot harder."

WNC (20-33 overall) will conclude the regular season with doubleheaders Friday and Saturday at College of Southern Idaho.

"Right now, every game is preparing us for regionals," Wentworth said. "We have a couple more games in conference, then everybody starts over, and we all have to win to stay alive."

Pfeiffer, who reached base six times in her final home games, believes in her team's potential the rest of the way.

"I have a good feeling about next week and the conference tournament," Pfeiffer said. "This weekend showed us how much it helps if you play together … how much dedication you have to have in games and in practice."

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