Must Beat Salt Lake Twice for Title
What a difference a day makes. After falling Thursday in their first round of the NJCAA Region 18 baseball tournament, the Western Nevada College Wildcats fought their way back on Friday, winning back-to-back contests and giving themselves a chance to capture the championship on Saturday.
WNC beat College of Southern Nevada, 4-2, Friday afternoon. An hour later, the Wildcats returned to the field and handled College of Southern Idaho, 7-4, exacting revenge on the team that had knocked them into the losers' bracket, and propelling themselves into the championship bracket.
With the wins, WNC will have the chance to capture the Region 18 title, but only if it can beat Salt Lake Community College twice. The teams meet at 11 a.m. PST, with a tiebreaker immediately following if Western Nevada wins the opener.
Even so, both teams are now qualified for the NJCAA Western District tournament, a four-team event that begins on Thursday. In every third year, two teams from Region 18 get to qualify for that tournament, and this year is the lucky one for the runner-up Wildcats.
Western Nevada scored first and never trailed on the day, relying on solid pitching and defense as the backbone of their attack. In the opener, Dylan Baker held Southern Nevada scoreless for eight innings and more than 137 pitches before giving way to Brandon Jackson, who got the win.
CSN’s starting pitcher Joey Loria did his part, too, keeping the Wildcats off the scoreboard until the sixth inning when he walked leadoff batter Neil Lawhorn, then pitched Dillon Ness a full-count hit that scored Lawhorn for the first run of the game. Moments later, leadoff batter Chris Woolley hit a sacrifice fly that scored Ness and gave WNC a 2-0 lead. Baker allowed a two-run homer in the ninth inning for a 2-2 tie, raising the anxiety level of Wildcats fans. But WNC regular fourth starter Jackson held the Coyotes scoreless during the top of the 10th inning. Then, in the bottom of the frame, Bobby Pappin singled to right field, then stole second on a wild pitch. Moments later, Ness hit a walk-off two-run homer to end the contest.
Baker gave up three hits and struck out 14.
Against Southern Idaho, the Wildcats moved quickly to a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Leadoff batter Ness reached first base on an error and then second on a base hit by Taylor Smart. Ness advanced on Woolley’s sacrifice bunt, and immediately afterward, scored on an RBI by Zach Hendrix.
CSI sought to counter with a run of its own, loading the bases in the bottom of the inning. But Wildcats starting pitcher Derrick Pitts shut down the momentum by striking out two to end the inning. In the second inning, WNC moved to a 2-0 lead, scoring Pitts on a CSI error.
CSI scored three runs in the third inning to move ahead 4-2, then Jackson again took the reins. He held the Golden Eagles scoreless through 6 1/3 innings, allowing only three hits and striking out two.
Meanwhile, Western Nevada took advantage of a fourth inning walk by CSI reliever Eric Holden and Pappin smacked a two-run homer that tied the game at 4-4. The Wildcats struck again in the sixth inning with an RBI double by Lawhorn that scored Pitts and WNC led 5-4.
WNC put the icing on the cake in the top of the ninth when Alex Schmidt hit a two-RBI triple that proved to be the winning margin.
Live play-by-play commentary of Wildcats baseball games is available online at http://carsonnow.org/play-play-chris-graham
Online broadcasting of all WNC 2012 baseball games is made possible only through community donations and the volunteer work of announcer Chris Graham. He has donated his time as the voice of the Wildcats because of his love of the team and his desire to develop his broadcasting skills toward a future career.
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