March 16, 2013

Rice's Base Hit in 12th Knocks in Tying, Winning Runs

Wildcats Pull Off Wild Comeback Victory

Mike Umscheid motors around the bases during WNCs 14-13 victory over Mt. Hood Community College on…
Mike Umscheid motors around the bases during WNC's 14-13 victory over Mt. Hood Community College on Friday at John L. Harvey Field.

No one can question the Western Nevada College baseball team’s resiliency after what the Wildcats overcame on Friday.

The Wildcats rallied from three deficits, including a 7-0 disadvantage in the third inning, en route to a wild 14-13 nonconference victory over Mount Hood in 12 innings at John L. Harvey Field in Carson City.

Mount Hood of Portland, Ore., bounced back to win the second game, 3-0, on a three-hit shutout by Brandon Williams.

In the opener, the Wildcats rallied from seven runs down to take a 10-7 lead into the ninth inning, only to see the Saints battle back with a four-run scoring flurry in the final frame. The back-and-forth drama continued when WNC’s Conor Harber stroked a game-tying RBI double in the bottom of the ninth to necessitate extended play.

“Baseball is an amazing game,” said WNC coach D.J. Whittemore of the teams’ combined 27 runs, 33 hits and nine errors. “You never know when you are going to score. You have to play every pitch.”

Even when Mount Hood pushed two runs across the plate in the 12th inning to go ahead 13-11, the Wildcats didn’t become unnerved. Walks to Matt Becker, Cole Ferguson and Connor Klein fueled the Widcats’ third comeback. WNC made it 13-12 on Mike Umscheid’s sacrifice fly, then the Saints decided to intentionally walk Donald Glover Jr. to reload the bases.

That brought up pinch-hitter Colby Rice, the final player off the Wildcats’ bench. After falling behind in the count to Clint Burris, the Saints’ sixth pitcher, Rice lined a slider into center field to score pinch-runner Phil Belding and Klein with the tying and winning runs, respectively.

“Colby is a grinder … Colby is a team player,” Whittemore said. “He put in a lot of extra work all week. It’s good to see work pay off.

“That’s something we preach from the first day of fall practice, that everybody contributes.”

Rice was just happy to have the opportunity to hit.

“I was kind of struggling with my at-bats. To have an opportunity like this and come in and make it happen, I feel really good about it.”

The game-winning hit was particularly satisfying to Rice because of his Oregon roots.

“I know a couple guys on their team, so it felt good,” said Rice, who played high school ball in Salem, Ore.

Spencer Greer (3-1), the fifth WNC pitcher, picked up the victory despite giving up two runs.

WNC fell behind 2-0 in the first inning as the Saints scored twice off starter Cody Hamlin after two were out. Ryan Degner and Hunter Weiss sprayed RBI singles in front of Wildcat outfielders as the Saints capitalized on two errors committed earlier in the inning.

Left-hander Jon Bjorklund kept the Wildcats off balance at the outset, retiring the first six hitters, including two on strikes.

Hamlin’s (3-1) start was out of character. The Saints sent seven batters to the plate in the first inning and 11 more during a five-run third.
But the freshman right-hander settled down in the fourth inning. After surrendering a base hit to Logan Grindy to start the fourth, Hamlin got the next eight Saints out.

“We trust him,” said Whittemore about keeping Hamlin in despite a rough start. “We’re a little thin on the mound, so we needed to ride him a little bit.”

Through three innings, the Saints had seven runs on nine singles and two hit batters, and there were three costly Wildcat errors. But WNC’s dugout remained energetic and optimistic.

“There always is that sense of being down, just for a little bit, but we always seem to pick it back up, especially today,” Rice said.

The Wildcats got on the scoreboard in the third as Glover Jr. and AJ Hernandez led off with base hits. A double steal moved both runners into scoring position, before Tony Roque knocked in Glover Jr. with a groundout to short. Harber’s single past the glove of diving second baseman Ian Erickson scored Hernandez to bring the score to 7-2.

The Wildcats made some noise in the late going, scoring twice in the sixth to close within 7-4. Umscheid followed a bunt single by Klein with an RBI triple into the gap in right-center field. It was Umscheid’s third triple of the season.

Glover Jr. plated Umscheid with a fly ball to left.

Bjorklund left holding his pitching arm with one out in the sixth. Pinch-hitter Christian Stolo greeted Myles Richard with a base hit to center, moving Hernandez to third. An errant pickoff by Richard allowed Hernandez to come home, making the score 7-5. Richard, however, retired the next two Wildcats to prevent the score from becoming tighter.

Brock Pellow relieved Hamlin in the seventh, only allowing an infield hit to Weiss to keep the Wildcats within striking range.

Joseph Crunkilton started a seventh-inning rally with a double to center and advanced to third when Ryan Degner missed his cutoff man. Ferguson’s base hit scored Crunkilton to cut WNC’s deficit to one. Klein followed with a single to right, moving Ferguson to second. With Joe Piercey on in relief, Umscheid flied out to left field after being unable to put down a bunt down to move up the runners.

A diving stop by Jake Thran robbed Glover Jr. of a potential tying hit, and the first baseman was able to get up and make the force for the second out. Hernandez bounced out to second base to end the rally.
In the eighth, one-out singles by Tyler Baker and Harber ignited another Wildcat comeback bid. Crunkilton took one for the team as he was hit by a pitch on an 0-2 count, filling the bases.

Ferguson delivered a single to center, scoring Baker to tie the score, and Harber trotted home with the go-ahead run when Degner’s throw to third base sailed into the Wildcat dugout.

Whittemore had his next two hitters, Klein and Umscheid bunt, and it paid off with two more runs and a 10-7 lead.

The Saints responded in the ninth, though, loading the bases with one out against Tyler Bennett. Whittemore then brought Evan Parker out of the bullpen, and Weiss’ bad-hop double past left fielder Becker plated two runs as the Saints closed within a run. Thran’s sacrifice fly to right field scored Degner with the tying run, and Justin Marshall’s liner to right plated Weiss to put Mount Hood on top, 11-10.

Harber and Kein topped the Wildcats’ 17-hit attack with three hits apiece. Harber and Ferguson each knocked in two runs, while Baker, Glover Jr. and Ferguson rapped out a pair of hits.

In the second game, Belding and Williams locked up in a pitching duel.

Through five innings, Williams allowed only two Wildcat baserunners. But WNC finally got something going in the sixth, putting runners on first and second with one out. But Williams got Crunkilton to pop up to third and left fielder Weiss threw out Becker at the plate attempting to score on Klein’s base hit.

Belding gave up two hits and two runs in the second inning and allowed just three hits in the remaining five frames. He struck out five, walked three and hit three batters in suffering his first defeat in five decisions. Williams finished with eight strikeouts and two walks.

The four-game series concludes Saturday with a doubleheader starting at noon. WNC has a 19-11 overall record.

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