Woeck, Jackson, Pitts and Lawhorn Also Part of All-Region First Team
Pitching has fueled a 44-win season thus far for the Western Nevada College baseball team, so when the Scenic West Athletic Conference honors came out last week, three Wildcat hurlers and two position players were recognized by being named to the first team.
Topping the Wildcat awards was sophomore right-hander Dylan Baker, who earned the Region 18 Pitcher of the Year award. The 6-foot-3 Baker of Juneau, Alaska, was seldom scored upon until the last weekend of the regular season. Baker gave up five earned runs in 13 starts prior to receiving a no-decision in a 14-13 defeat to conference champion Salt Lake in his final regular-season outing.
WNC sophomore right-hander Andrew Woeck of Brier, Wash., and sophomore right-hander Brandon Jackson of Roseburg, Ore., also received spots on the first team.
"Three out of four starters coming from our pitching staff speaks volumes for our pitching coach (Jeremy Beard) and our pitching guys," said WNC Coach D.J. Whittemore. "I don't remember any year where any team had three out of four starting pitchers. Coach Beard deserves the credit there, and you can't leave our catchers out (for credit)."
Derrick Pitts, a sophomore first baseman from Salt Lake City, and sophomore catcher Neil Lawhorn of Las Vegas were also voted to the first team. Pitts, for his pitching; Zach Hendrix; Taylor Smart; and Bobby Pappin were chosen to the second team.
"Five first-team all-conference selections tied us for the most in the league," Whittemore said.
Baker, who tossed three complete games, finished the regular season with an 11-0 record, 1.84 earned run average and 100 strikeouts. He allowed 32 hits in 63 2/3 innings and limited hitters to a .144 average. It was the third time in four years that WNC has received the pitcher of the year honor.
According to the National Junior College Athletic Association statistical rankings, Baker leads the country with 1.569 strikeouts per inning, and his 11-0 record was tied for the nation's best with Howard College's Logan Ehlers.
One Major League Baseball scouting website recently projected Baker to be selected by the Milwaukee Brewers with the 28th pick of the first round in next month's Amateur Baseball Draft.
Jackson has developed into one of WNC's most reliable arms. He finished the regular season with a 7-1 record and a 1.74 ERA. He surrendered nine earned runs and 14 walks while striking out 42 in 46 2/3 innings.
"He makes a lot of good pitches," Whittemore said. "He really commands the baseball and executes his pitches."
Jackson proved his burgeoning worth to the Wildcats during last weekend's Region 18 tournament when he won two elimination games in one day to extend WNC's season. Now 9-1 on the season, Jackson's ability to change speeds on his pitches has been a major asset to the Wildcats in the second half of the season when he moved into the starting rotation.
Woeck finished the regular season with the lowest ERA (1.42) among Wildcat starters and was second to Baker with 82 strikeouts. Opponents batted a paltry .155 against him in 63 1/3 innings.
WNC's team ERA through the Region 18 tournament is 2.32, and no one on the Wildcats' 12-member pitching staff has an ERA higher than 4.05.
Pitts has been one of the Wildcats' most versatile performers, playing first base and in the outfield, as well as being a key member of the starting rotation. The most feared Wildcat power hitter, Pitts belted a conference-high nine home runs and has knocked in a team second-best 43 runs. Pitts also hit .291 with 16 doubles and 43 RBI.
"He was a great presence for us in the middle of the lineup," Whittemore said. "He was very deserving of his first-team selection. If my memory serves me right, it's the first time we've had a player honored as a pitcher and hitter. He's a special player."
Lawhorn has a .288 batting average with five homers and eight doubles, but his worth to the Wildcats goes far beyond his hitting stats. As WNC's regular catcher, he called the pitches and his accurate throwing arm discouraged runners from trying to steal bases. Lawhorn, who was chosen to the all-region defensive team along with teammate Cole Ferguson, finished with just two errors and threw out nine base runners.
"He is the only catcher (in the SWAC) who called his own game out there and had the fewest stolen bases attempted and gained against him," Whittemore said.
Coaches picked Smart to an all-conference team for the second straight year.
"That says what kind of player he's been and how valuable he's been to our program the last two years," Whittemore said.
The versatile infielder shares the Wildcat lead with four triples, and he's second on the team with 47 runs scored.
Pappin overcame a five-week absence from the lineup because of a broken wrist to also join Smart, Hendrix and Pitts on the second team. In his abbreviated season, the center fielder has hit .294 with seven doubles, two homers and two triples.
"That he made all-conference after missing five weeks is a real testament to his talent and character," Whittemore said. "He's a big part of our lineup."
As the Wildcats' second-leading hitter, Hendrix compiled statistics that could have placed him on the first team, according to Whittemore. Hendrix is hitting .344 with 11 doubles and 39 RBI.
"He's had a huge year," Whittemore said. "He led the team in RBIs in conference and was third in the conference (games)."
Pitts, who has started on the hill six times for WNC, has a 4-1 record and 2.81 ERA.
Three additional Wildcats received honorable mention: Mike Umscheid, Dillon Ness and Chris Woolley. Umscheid currently leads the 'Cats with a .356 batting average, Ness' 45 overall RBI tops the team and Woolley overcame an early season injury to hit .308.
The Wildcats (44-15 overall) continue postseason play Thursday in the Western District Tournament in West Jordan, Utah.
"It's an outstanding haul for our players, and they are very deserving of their honors," Whittemore said. "We have an excellent team."
WNC is ranked 16th in the latest Perfect Game Top 50 junior college poll. The Wildcats moved up one spot from the previous poll.
The NJCAA ranked WNC 19th on May 9 following the Wildcats' four-game regular-season-ending split with second-ranked Salt Lake.
All-Region 18 Baseball Team Selections
Chase Harris, CSI (Player of the Year); Braden Anderson, SLCC ; Quinton Mack, CSN; Dominique Taylor, SLCC ; Derrick Pitts, WNC ; Morgan Stotts, CSN; Jordan Van Hoosier, CSN; Tyson Popoff, SLCC (Defensive Player of the Year ); Chad Whiteaker, CSN ; Dylan Baker, WNC (Pitcher of the Year ); AJ Carmen, SLCC ; Andrew Woeck, WNC; Brandon Jackson, WNC; Dane Fuller, SLCC (Relief Pitcher of the Year ); Neil Lawhom, WNC ; Ben Douglas, CSI .
Bobby Pappin, WNC; Kennedy Kinkade, SLCC ; Taylor Smart, WNC ; Carter Yagi, CSI ; Palmer Page, SLCC; Andrew Freter, CSI; Tanner Banks, SLCC ; Michael Springer, SLCC ; Derrick Pitts, WNC; Zach Hendrix, WNC; Nathan Fishel, SLCC.
Coach of the Year
David Nelson, SLCC
Dillon Ness, WNC; Steven Adam, SLCC : Parker Webster, CSI ; Nuho Kraja, USU/Eastern ; Dalton Gust, SLCC ; Cameron Buckles, CNCC ; Chris Woolley, WNC; Cory Welch, CSN ; Tanner Morache, CSI ; Mike Umscheid, WNC ; Eric Holdren, CSI; Kyle Olason, CSI ; Joey Launa, CSN ; Scott Hauck, CSN; Tyler Dunnington, CSI.
1B: Kennedy Kinkade, SLCC ; 2B: Cameron Buckels, CNCC ; 3B: JC Snyder, SLCC ; SS: Tyson Popoff, SLCC; C: Neil Lawhom, WNC; OF: Cole Ferguson, WNC ; OF: Parker Webster, CSI ; OF: Alex Church, USU/Eastern.
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