April 30, 2012

Road Wins at CSI Set Up Showdown Between 'Cats, Bruins

Wildcats Complete Season Sweep of Golden Eagles

Not a team to get ahead of itself, the Western Nevada College Wildcats focused on beating College of Southern Idaho one game at a time over the weekend.

That single-mindedness paid off as the Wildcats pulled off a road sweep of the Scenic West Athletic Conference baseball foe, putting them in position to win the conference title on the final weekend of the regular season.

Western Nevada remained one game behind first-place Salt Lake in the SWAC standings by defeating CSI 7-3 and 6-0 on April 27 and 6-0 and 12-2 on April 28.

"We've played really good for three straight weekends," said WNC Coach D.J. Whittemore. "This team is as good as any that we've coached in overcoming the elements, where it be travel or the weather. A lot of guys have a lot invested, and when you have those two things and play every pitch, that makes you tough to beat."

The Bruins swept their four-game series with Eastern Utah, meaning the conference title will be decided when the top-two teams meet for a four-game series May 4-5 in Salt Lake City.

"We are cautiously optimistic. We understand that Salt Lake has only been beaten six times the whole season," Whittemore said. "They are the top dog, and we'll go in there and try to knock them off."

The SWAC winner will host the Region XVIII Tournament May 9-12.

WNC pitchers dominated the Golden Eagles, surrendering 12 total hits and two earned runs in the four games. Starting pitchers Derrick Pitts and Andrew Woeck went deep into the middle games of the series, both of which ended in shutouts.

"We threw a lot of low strikes and got ahead in the count," Whittemore said. "We did all of the things you are supposed to do to win."

But Whittemore said his Wildcats were fortunate that many of the Golden Eagles' hard hits wound up in his players' gloves.

"There's a lot of randomness involved in baseball," he said. "They were hitting where we were standing. We made some good pitches, turned a couple of double plays. We were fortunate to get out of there allowing the five (total) runs."

Pitts (4-0) tossed seven scoreless innings in game two, permitting two hits while fanning five and walking one. Matt Robertson and Philip Belding worked a scoreless frame apiece to close out the 6-0 shutout performance.

CSI's Andrew Freter and Eric Holdren blanked the Wildcats for the first seven innings, but WNC scored twice in the eighth and four in the ninth to pull away.

In the eighth, Rayne Raven's one-out double scored Bobby Pappin with the only run the Wildcats needed. Raven crossed home plate on Neil Lawhorn's sacrifice bunt to make the score 2-0.

Lawhorn added a two-run single and Zach Hendrix chipped in a run-scoring base hit in the ninth to provide the Wildcats with some breathing room.

Woeck and two relievers turned in the Wildcats' other blanking in game three. A third-inning base hit by Jayson Welker was the only hit off Woeck during his five-inning stint on the hill in the 6-0 victory.

Woeck (7-2) only faced 18 batters and struck out six of them. Tyler Spencer and Raven completed the seven-inning shutout, the Wildcats' 13th of the season. Spencer allowed a hit and two walks in 1 2/3 innings, and Raven came in to get the final out via a strikeout.

Woolley delivered two of the Wildcats' eight hits, Lawhorn knocked in three runs and Pappin walked three times and scored twice. For the weekend, the patient Wildcats drew 25 walks from CSI pitching.

Offensively, the Wildcats didn't waste any time jumping out on top, scoring once in the first inning. Leadoff hitter Woolley singled, advanced to second on Taylor Smart's sacrifice bunt and scored on a Pitts double.

Woolley and Pitts also played significant roles in WNC's four-run fifth inning. Woolley, who missed nearly half of the season due to injury, slugged his first homer, a two-run shot. Pitts followed that blast with his second extra-base hit of the game, a two-bagger that scored Smart. Hendrix's sacrifice fly plated Pitts to put the Wildcats ahead 5-0.

Hendrix's RBI single to score Smart closed out the scoring in the seventh.

Woolley finished 2-3 with two runs scored and two RBI, Pitts was 2-3 with two RBI and a run scored and Smart was 1-2 with two runs scored, a base on balls and sacrifice bunt.

In the series opener, CSI scored a season-high two earned runs off WNC ace Dylan Baker, but Baker still kept it together to win for the 11th time in 11 decisions.

Before his departure after the sixth inning, Baker checked the Golden Eagles on five hits, struck out eight and walked one. Reliever Evan Parker fanned two of the three hitters he faced in a 1-2-3 seventh inning.

Dillon Ness gave the Wildcats a lift in the first inning by rapping a two-out single with the bases load, bringing Woolley and Smart across the plate. Raven also contributed a two-run single before the inning ended, giving the Wildcats a 4-0 lead.

The Wildcats were limited to three hits the rest of the way but tacked on three runs in the fourth to build a 7-2 edge. Hendrix's two-RBI base hit and Pitts' run-scoring single brought home the runs.
Woolley and Smart each scored twice and Raven, Ness and Hendrix drove home two runs.

In the series finale, the Wildcats rode a three-hit offensive performance by Alex Schmidt and the one-hit pitching of Brandon Jackson to victory.

The Wildcats equalled a season high with 17 hits before the mercy rule kicked in after six innings.
Mike Umscheid's RBI single scored Schmidt with the game's first run in the second inning. WNC unleashed three- and six-run rallies to turn the game into a rout.

In the third, Pitts hit his team-leading 14th double, Lawhorn stroked an RBI two-bagger and Schmidt brought in two runs with a single.

Umscheid legged out a double in the fourth and scored on a Woolley single as WNC went ahead 5-2.

WNC put the game out of reach by scoring six runs on four hits in the fifth. Woolley, Smart and Pitts took advantage of CSI control problems by walking with the bases loaded. Pappin and Bobby Gazzola contributed RBI singles before the 12-hitter inning ended.

Hendrix's RBI single in the sixth scored Smart with the Wildcats' final run.

Before being removed after four innings, Jackson (6-1) gave up one hit, two unearned runs and two walks. Austin Richmond and Brandon Show combined to permit one hit and strike out two over the final two innings.

Schmidt's stat line read 3-3 with two RBI and two runs scored. Woolley, Hendrix, Pappin, Umscheid and AJ Hernandez smacked two hits as the Wildcats won for the eighth time in eight games against CSI this season.

The Wildcats are seeking their third SWAC title in the past four years and fourth overall. WNC (40-11) also reached the 40-win plateau for the fourth consecutive season.

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