Team Getting Ready for Conference Play
Western Nevada College baseball coach D.J. Whittemore is learning a lot about his team’s resolve and competitiveness before Scenic West Athletic Conference play begins.
After a disappointing 5-2 defeat to Riverside Community College on Thursday, the Wildcats bounced back to win the final two games of the series against the Southern California club.
“The takeaway from this weekend was that our guys bounced back after a heart-wrenching loss. That says a lot about our guys and what kind of competitors they are,” Whittemore said.
The Wildcats came from behind to take the decisive third game of the series despite a struggle to knock in base-runners. WNC stranded 14 runners but tied a season high with 17 hits in the 6-5 win.
WNC improved to 12-4, finishing the eight-game road trip with a 6-2 mark.
Mike Umscheid’s infield single scored Jack Hall to tie the score at 4 in the sixth, and the Wildcats went ahead for good in the seventh on an Alex Fife infield hit. Matt Becker’s double to left-center field put WNC ahead 6-4.
Riverside (6-3) scored once in the eighth off Cody Hamlin and had the tying run on third with two out. But Brandon Van Horn was cut down at the plate when Ferguson picked up a ball behind the plate and threw to reliever Christian Stolo, who put the rally-stopping tag on Van Horn.
Becker and Donald Glover Jr. each knocked out three hits, drove in a run and scored once. The five Wildcats with two hits were Umscheid, Crunkilton, Fife, Hall and Conor Klein.
Whittemore used five pitchers, with Hamlin picking up the win with three innings of one-hit ball. Luke Eubank pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his sixth save ��" a single-season program record.
Aaron Demosthenes managed the Wildcats in Whittemore’s absence. Whittemore missed the game while attending the wedding of his brother, Chase.
WNC’s Phil Belding was nearly perfect against the Riverside Tigers in the second game of the series on Friday.
Belding retired 27 of the 29 batters he faced as WNC defeated Riverside 2-0 on Friday night.
The 6-foot-2 sophomore right-hander threw a one-hit shutout as WNC evened its series with Riverside at a game apiece.
“It was only the second nine-inning shutout in program history,” Whittemore said. “Belding was in complete control, executing the game plan.”
Belding retired the first 22 Tiger hitters before surrendering a out-out single to Bryan Saucedo in the eighth. His only other blemish was a one-out base on balls to Michael Deceglie in the ninth. With the tying run at the plate in the ninth, Belding fanned Nicolas King to end the game.
“He kept the hitters off balance, was ahead in the count and was pitching at the bottom of the strike zone,” Whittemore said.
Belding struck out seven and walked one.
The Wildcats scored their two runs in the third. Tony Roque opened the inning with an infield single and scored on Colby Rice’s double along the right-field line. Tyler Baker’s sacrifice bunt moved Rice to third, and Joseph Crunkilton’s two-out base hit scored Rice.
Crunkilton was 3 for 3 with an RBI, leading the Wildcats’ seven-hit attack.
Statistics sometimes do lie. In the series opener on Thursday, the Wildcats outhit the Tigers 8-3 and committed two fewer errors but lost 5-2.
Riverside scored four times in the eighth inning without the benefit of a hit to erase a 2-1 WNC lead. The Tigers used the first three walks issued by the Wildcats, three sacrifice bunts, a wild pitch and an error to rally for the nonconference victory.
WNC starting pitcher Brandon Show (2-1) entered the eighth with a three-hitter but wound up taking his first loss.
Freshman Spencer Dorsey’s RBI double in the top of the eighth snapped a 1-1 tie. Becker scored the Wildcats’ first run in the sixth, reaching on an infield single and eventually scoring on an infielder’s error.
WNC, which left 12 runners on the bags, was led at the plate by Becker and Umscheid with two hits each.
WNC will now open SWAC play with a new format. The Wildcats will play each of its four conference foes on Friday and Saturday in Henderson, Nev.
“That should be interesting and challenging,” Whittemore said.
The Wildcats will play their first SWAC home games March 8-9 against Colorado Northwestern at John L. Harvey Field in Carson City.
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