Darby Equals Home Run Record
Western Nevada College found a cure over the weekend for its recent Scenic West Athletic Conference softball losing streak: the power hitting of Sydney Darby and long pitching stints by Ali Lostra and Carlee Beck.
Darby equaled a program record with her 15th and 16th homers of the season, while Lostra and Beck each tossed a complete game as the Wildcats won three of four games from Colorado Northwestern in Rangely, Colo.
In the four tight games with the Spartans, the Wildcats came through with clutch hits, solid defense and lengthy outings from their pitchers.
“We had a great weekend, offensively and defensively,” said WNC Head Coach Leah Wentworth. “We are starting to get more comfortable at the plate against live pitching, and I’m really excited about the pitching staff.”
With home-run blasts in the first and third games of the series, Darby caught Taleas Marble, who now is the leading hitter for University of Texas of the Permian Basin with a .322 average, for the WNC single-season record. Marble hit 16 out of the park for the Wildcats last season.
“We’re really excited for her. She’s been on a tear this year,” Wentworth said. “We knew Sydney had a big stick coming into the program and had the potential to give Taleas’ record a run. We didn’t anticipate that it would come this early in the year, so it will be interesting to see if she can maintain this and see where she can end up.”
The teams split Friday’s games, with WNC winning the opener 6-3 and Colorado Northwestern bouncing back in game two for a 6-4 victory. WNC took both Saturday contests, 6-3 and 7-4.
Holding onto early leads has troubled the Wildcats in conference play, but WNC changed course in the series opener. Trailing 2-1 entering the sixth inning, the Wildcats scored twice to take a 3-2 lead, then pushed across three runs in the seventh to win 6-3.
Jennifer Rachel paced the Wildcats’ nine-hit attack with two hits, while Darby and Andrea Lee knocked in two runs apiece. Lee and Darby belted two-run homers, while Rechel joined her power-hitting teammates in the extra-base hit category with a double. Lostra and Heather Septon executed sacrifice bunts.
Lostra allowed six hits and fanned three while throwing 105 pitches in going the seven-inning distance. “Ali did a great job keeping the hitters off balance with her change,” Wentworth said.
WNC made another comeback bid in Friday’s nightcap, but Colorado Northwestern’s five-run first inning proved too much to overcome. After tallying their first run in the second inning, the Wildcats rallied for a run in the fifth and two in the sixth to finish a couple runs short.
The comeback was made possible by Beck’s effort in long relief. Beck, a freshman, replaced Alexia Alley in the first frame and threw 5 1/3 innings of solid relief. Alisha Nielsen and Madison Gonzalez each supplied two of the WNC’s six hits.
In Saturday’s opener, the Wildcats connected for 11 hits against Spartan pitching, with Septon and Nielsen igniting the offense with three apiece. Nielsen stroked a double and knocked in two runs, while Darby hit her program record-tying home run to spark the Wildcats to the win. Darby and Lee both delivered two hits and an RBI.
Lostra earned her second win of the series by tossing six shutout innings before running into some trouble in the final inning. WNC built a 6-0 lead, but the Spartans scored three times in the final inning to make it interesting. Beck was called upon with two outs in the sixth and earned her first save by retiring the only hitter she faced.
“Ali was hanging in there, but she seemed to be losing a little energy at the end and the other team was making adjustments at the plate, so we just wanted to mix it up with Carlee and shut it down,” Wentworth said.
Lostra raised her season pitching record to 6-11.
Beck complemented her outstanding relief work by going the distance in the seven-inning finale, which WNC won 7-4. She struck out two in a108-pitch outing, posting her fifth win of the season.
“When we recruited Carlee at the end of the high school season last year, what we saw is that she came on to throw very well,” Wentworth said. “Throwing as many pitches as she has this season has really helped her accuracy. We hope she continues to show what we saw.”
Lee, Darby and Jennifer Quam each collected two hits in the final game. Quam also was busy on the bases, stealing three bags, and she and Septon drove home two runs.
Colorado Northwestern touched up Beck for two runs on two hits and two errors in the first inning, but Beck gathered herself to hold the Spartans scoreless over the next four innings. She only allowed four hits after the first inning and gave the pitching staff momentum moving forward.
“It’s definitely hard for some pitchers to come into any game that they don’t start,” Wentworth said. “If they are able to hang in there and maintain endurance, that’s definitely ideal for us. That’s really what we need at the end of the season and when we get into the playoffs.”
Meanwhile, the Wildcat bats woke up in the third inning for a four-run rally and followed that with a three-run scoring flurry in the fourth to take command. Darby, Lee and Septon each doubled, while Rachel and Gonzalez stole a base.
Next up for the Wildcats is a key four-game series at North Idaho on Friday and Saturday. The teams are battling for fifth place, with only a half-game separating the clubs in the conference standings.
“We continue to show that we are moving in the right direction,” Wentworth said. “It’s all about peaking at the right time, and that’s what these girls are doing.”
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