Sluggish Start to Baseball Season
It’s not the start to the Scenic West Athletic Conference baseball season that Western Nevada College envisioned after posting a 12-4 record in nonconference games.
The Wildcats dropped three of four home games to defending SWAC champion Salt Lake Community College on Friday and Saturday to fall to 2-6 in conference games.
On Friday, the highlights for the Wildcats were the shutout performance by sophomore pitcher Phil Belding and a 13-hit attack in a 9-0 romp over the Bruins. The Bruins, however, edged the Wildcats 3-2 in the opener.
“The pitching set the tone,” said WNC coach D.J. Whittemore said. “They were terrific, and the catching was outstanding.”
Belding threw a complete game, allowing four hits and striking out five, including three in the first inning.
The Wildcats held the Bruins at bay for two innings, and then Mike Umscheid kicked off the scoring with a triple to center field. Moments later, right fielder Conor Harber followed with an RBI to right-center field, scoring Umscheid for a 1-0 lead. After allowing only one Salt Lake hit in the bottom of the third, the Wildcats scored five runs on six hits, assisted by three Salt Lake errors, to take a 6-0 lead. WNC scored one run in the fifth inning when pinch-hitter Spenser Dorsey sent a base hit to left field. He advanced on a wild pitch, and then Alex Fife hit a full-count shot to right field to score him and extend the lead to 7-0. The Wildcats ended the day with a two-RBI double by Connor Klein, giving the team the satisfaction that has eluded them of late.
In the series opener, WNC rallied from a three-run deficit but came up a run short. The Bruins scored all three of their runs in the fourth inning.
WNC countered in the bottom of the inning with an RBI by Klein that scored Cole Ferguson. In the sixth inning, Tyler Baker came in as a pinch runner after AJ Hernandez’s hit to center field. Baker advanced to second base on a wild pitch, and then scored from second to pull the Wildcats within one run.
The Bruins used a pair of dominant starting performances, including a three-hit complete-game shutout by Brady Corless, to sweep the Wildcats, 4-0 and 6-3, in Saturday’s twin bill at John L. Harvey Field.
The Wildcats had a combined seven hits against Corless and second-game starter Rhett Nelson, eight overall, in the two games.
“I think Salt Lake’s pitching deserves credit. They obviously did a good job of game planning last night and executing it today, so I give them credit,” Whittemore said. “We might have had too many one-pitch outs. When you are playing a good team in Scenic West wood bat baseball, it comes down a to pitch or a play here or there, and we didn’t make enough pitches and we didn’t get enough hits.”
Evan Parker, who relieved Luke Eubank in the third, pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings to keep the Wildcats within striking range in opener.
Corless walked Ferguson on four pitches to open the seventh inning, but Kein grounded into a double play to take the steam out of the rally. Umscheid lifted the Wildcats’ third hit off Corless and was stranded at third after stealing second and advancing to third on catcher Nathan Fishel’s throwing error.
Nelson picked up where Corless left off in game two. Nelson retired seven of the first eight Wildcats he faced before Baker hit a wind-blown double to center in the third with Salt Lake leading 3-0. Baker scored WNC’s first run of the day, advancing home on Becker’s sacrifice fly, just beating left fielder Jordan Leinweber’s throw to the plate.
Salt Lake built a 3-0 lead, taking advantage of four walks by freshman hurler Christian Stolo, who threw a no-hitter in his last outing. Two of the free passes scored.
“That’s something as a freshman he can learn from is that you always want the other team to beat you swinging the bat,” Whittemore said.
Sam Goold’s run-scoring double and an RBI base hit by Kade Teter accounted for Salt Lake’s scoring in the second frame. JC Snyder scored Salt Lake’s third run on a throwing error by Umscheid in the third.
The Wildcats missed a chance to tie the score in the fourth, putting runners on second and third with one out. Joseph Crunkilton started the rally with a one-out single to right and went to third on a bunt single by Donald Glover Jr. that Nelson threw into right field. A two-out walk to Jack Hall loaded the bases, but Nelson got Colby Rice to ground out to first base.
“We got some runners on base, and they made the pitches when they had to,” Whittemore said. “Winning teams get hits with runners in scoring position, and we didn’t do that today.”
Glover Jr.’s second hit, a double to right, chased home Ferguson with the Wildcats’ second run. Dorsey’s groundout to short scored Crunkilton to make the final score 6-3.
Bronson Anderson relieved Nelson in the seventh and was greeted with Baker’s second double of the game. But Anderson retired the next three Wildcats, and Baker was stranded on third.
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