After a record-setting 22-hit performance and 14-run output in their previous game, the Western Nevada College Wildcats had difficulty finding holes in the North Idaho Cardinalsâ€™ defense on Friday.
In their first home game at Edmonds Sports Complex in more than a month, the Wildcats were two-hit by a trio of Cardinals in the opening game, losing 5-0. North Idaho, one of the hottest Scenic West Athletic Conference softball teams, rallied to win game two, restricting the Wildcats to six hits in an 8-6 victory.
â€œThe opportunity for them to play on their home field and not have to worry about the travel aspect was really good for them. At the same time, we havenâ€™t been home in so long and not being able to practice on our home field in so long, it seems like it threw them off a little bit,â€ WNC coach Leah Wentworth said.
Miranda Powless started in the circle for North Idaho, checking the Wildcats on two hits through three innings. Brittany Hecker retired all nine batters she faced during the next three innings, and Tori Almos closed out the game by allowing just one baserunner in the seventh.
The Wildcats were limited to five baserunners in the seven-inning contest.
WNC sophomore pitcher Carlee Beck shut out the Cardinals through three innings. But two errors by the Wildcats contributed to the first two runs of the game in the fourth.
â€œShe threw a great game, and you know, when you get down to the sixth and seventh innings, two runs is a lot different than five. Making up the difference there is huge,â€ Wentworth said. â€œWe just need to tighten things up and make them earn the runs they get.â€
North Idaho added three insurance runs in the sixth. Hayley Fieldsâ€™ two-run triple to right-center field plated Kylene Hatton and Madison Anthony, putting the Cardinals ahead 4-0. Fields was awarded home on an errant relay throw, the Wildcatsâ€™ fourth error of the game.
Beck gave up eight hits and two earned runs in her seven innings of her work. She didnâ€™t walk a batter.
Gonzalez doubled to center in the first inning but was thrown out trying to advance to third base on Katelyn Bomarâ€™s grounder to a draw-in infield. Heather Septon had the only other Wildcat hit, a single to left with one out in the third inning.
â€œWe put the ball in play, but they played real good defense,â€ Gonzalez said. â€œAll their pitchers throw about the same speed, and I think weâ€™ve seen enough of their pitchers to hit them.â€
Fields, Anthony and Teadora Parker each had two hits for the Cardinals.
In the second game, the Wildcats took a 5-4 lead into the seventh inning, but the Cardinals scored four times to rally for their eighth victory in their past nine SWAC games.
Septonâ€™s two-run homer helped the Wildcats build a 4-0 advantage entering the fifth inning. But the Cardinals tied the score with a four-run fifth. However, WNC went back ahead in its half of the fifth on Andi Leeâ€™s solo homer.
That lead held up until the seventh when the Cardinals rallied for four runs. Fieldsâ€™ two-run double was the key hit in the comeback.
The Wildcats scratched out a run in their half of the seventh.
Almos earned the win, allowing three hits in six innings while striking out eight. Lindsey Ashbaugh relieved Beck to start the sixth inning and took the loss. She gave up seven hits and four earned runs.
Makenzie Hospodka doubled and scored twice for the Wildcats.
North Idaho improved to 29-18 overall record and 24-14 in the SWAC. WNC is 11-35 and 8-29.
The Wildcats and Cardinals will complete their four-game series with a twin bill starting at noon Saturday at Edmonds.