Darby, Quam Make Key Contributions
For the first time in their softball program history, the Western Nevada College Wildcats took a Scenic West Athletic Conference series from the Snow College Badgers.
A doubleheader split on Saturday at Edmonds Sports Complex in Carson City gave the Wildcats a 3-1 series edge. WNC had swept the Badgers on Friday and had never taken more than a game from the Badgers in a four-game series.
In the opener, Sydney Darby (Spanish Spring High) knocked in three runs and Jennifer Quam (North Valleys High) scored twice and made a lead-preserving catch to back the complete-game pitching of Carlee Beck in a 5-3 victory. Snow, however, rallied to win game two on the strength of Sydney Butler’s sixth-inning grand slam, 9-7.
“We have good pitch selection, we’re hitting balls when we need them and when we have runners on base, we’re executing, so it’s helping in the late season right now,” Quam said.
With their seventh victory in 11 games, the Wildcats ran their fifth-place SWAC record to 15-27 and gained some more confidence and momentum as the Region 18 tournament nears.
“Overall, we did a great job,” said WNC coach Leah Wenworth. “We’ve been really focusing on putting the ball in play, making things happen and minimizing our strikeouts. I thought that is what gave us a lot of our success, putting pressure on the defense.”
Darby supplied three of the Wildcats’ seven hits in the opener. Her two-run double in the fourth inning gave Beck some breathing room, extending WNC’s lead to 5-2.
“We’re all starting to trust each other more,” Darby said. “We are working more as a team. When someone gets on, we’re not being selfish anymore. We’re not trying to hit the ball hard; we’re getting sac flies and doing what we need to do to score them.”
Beck took a two-run lead into the seventh but was tasked with facing the top of the order, which produced five of the Badgers’ seven hits to that point. Two quick flyouts to Quam and Alia Cox brought the Wildcats to within an out of their third consecutive win. After walking opposing pitcher Katie Greenberg, Quam squeezed a line drive by Ally McAfee to finish off the win.
Beck earned her staff-leading eighth victory, surrendering seven hits and three earned runs.
Darby hit a sacrifice fly for the third straight game, putting the Wildcats on top 1-0 in the bottom of the inning. Quam walked, stole second base and went to third on Jennifer Rechel’s groundout to short.
Greenberg, however, escaped further trouble by getting Madison Gonzalez on a groundout with Andrea Lee on second and Alisha Nielsen on first.
Greenberg put the Badgers ahead 2-1 with a two-run double to left-center in the third inning.
The Wildcats, however, used a small ball attack to trigger a third-inning rally. Quam started the inning with a bunt single, then stole second base. Rechel’s bunt just in front of the plate sent Quam to third, and she beat the throw to first when catcher Danika Gough’s throw glanced off of her. The errant throw allowed Quam to score the tying run.
Darby’s single to left moved Rechel to third base, and Rechel scored on Nielsen’s bases-loaded groundout, putting WNC back in front 3-2.
Beck bounced back from her rough third inning by pitching a scoreless fourth.
WNC added to its lead in the fourth when Darby ripped a two-out double to center, scoring Alexia Alley and Beck with the team’s fourth and fifth runs.
In the fifth, Quam’s leaping grab of a potential game-tying home run by Butler kept the Wildcats in front 5-3. Quam’s teammates, including Beck, came out to outfield to congratulate her for making the pivotal defensive play.
Between games, the Wildcats honored their four sophomores: Quam, Alley, Cox and Ali Lostra, playing in their final home games.
Lostra started in the circle for the Wildcats in game two, with the intention of duplicating her performance on Friday. But the Badgers strung together three hits to score twice in the opening frame.
The Wildcats got a run back in their half of the first when Nielsen bounced a two-out base hit to center, scoring Darby.
In the second inning, WNC went ahead 3-2 on Rechel’s two-run double just out of the reach of center fielder Kelsey Simmonds’ glove. Lostra started the two-out rally with a base hit to center, then Quam reached base on a dropped fly ball.
The Badgers loaded the bases with two outs against Lostra in the fourth, but Sara Park hit the first pitch to Nielsen at first for an unassisted third out, keeping the score at 3-2.
Quam made her final appearance at Edmonds extra special in the fourth inning when she hit her first homer for the Wildcats. The blast gave WNC a 4-2 lead.
“I couldn’t even tell you how it got out,” Quam said. “It was a nice pitch, and I’ve been working hitting away during practice this week, and it paid off.”
Two errors and two free passes set up Snow for a bountiful sixth inning. After scoring an unearned run, a bases loaded walk to McAfee tied the score at 4, then Butler crushed a pitch over the left-field fence for a grand slam and an 8-4 Badger lead.
“It’s always tough to go four games against the same team and to continue to throw the hitters off and have dominance,” Wentworth said.
But the blown lead didn’t demoralize the Wildcats. They struck back in the bottom of the inning. A walk to Alley and singles by Quam and Rechel loaded the bases with one out. Darby then delivered a two-run single to right to bring the Wildcats within 8-6. The Badgers brought in Greenberg in relief and she promptly walked Lee and Nielsen, the latter base on balls scoring Rechel to make the score 8-7. But Geenberg minimized the damage with a force out at home and a Heather Septon to fly out to left.
A two-out base hit by Park provided the Badgers with an insurance run in the seventh.
WNC made one last comeback effort in the bottom of the seventh, putting runners on first and second with two out. After Cox was doubled off on Beck’s bunt attempt, Quam walked on a full count and Rechel dribbled a single through the left side. That set the stage for the power-hitting Darby, who couldn’t catch up to a Greenberg riser on a game-ending strikeout.
“We would have loved a walk-off. We have so much confidence on what she does at the plate,” Wentworth said. “I know she wants to come up big in that spot, but like I tell the girls, it never comes down to one single play like that. It’s an accumulation and letting all of those unearned runs score in that one inning.”
Rechel led the Wildcats by going 4 for 5 with a run scored and two RBI. Darby, Quam and Nielsen each chipped in two hits, and Quam also scored three runs.
WNC will conclude the regular season with a four-game set at rival Southern Nevada College on Friday and Saturday.
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