Jams donâ€™t get much tougher than the one relief pitcher Spencer Greer dealt with on Saturday afternoon at John L. Harvey Field in Carson City.
The Western Nevada College sophomore was protecting a one-run lead against College of Southern Idaho with the potential tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position. With two outs in the top of the seventh inning and a base open, Greer instead focused on cleanup hitter R.J. Bush, retiring him looking at a third-strike curveball.
â€œHeâ€™s a pretty good hitter, and he actually hit a couple of homers off me last year, so to get him out and get him on your pitch is a good feeling,â€ Greer said.
After saving the 4-3 opener of the Scenic West Athletic Conference baseball twin bill, Greer blanked the Golden Eagles for four innings to lead the Wildcats to a 4-0 victory and a doubleheader sweep.
In the process, the Wildcats padded their second-place advantage in the SWAC, improving to 10-6, while CSI slipped to 7-9.
WNC pitching coach Josh Moody said that the call of the final pitch came from the bench.
â€œHeâ€™s got great command of his curveball, and we feel like he can throw it for a strike,â€ Moody said. â€œWe were in the thought process that if we walk him there, we have an open base and we have a righty coming up, and Spencer is real good against righties.â€
In blustery conditions with intermittent raindrops, the Wildcats jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Following a walk to leadoff hitter Conor Harber, Joey Crunkilton belted an offering from Makay Nelson over the left-field fence for an unexpected homer, given the conditions.
â€œI was just trying to hit something hard on the ground,â€ Crunkilton said. â€œI hit it really square, but I didnâ€™t really know what happened.â€
As Crunkilton began to run out his team-leading fifth homer of the season, he thought he had hit a ground-rule double.
â€œItâ€™s always nice to get two runs in the first inning because it makes it lot less stressful on the pitcher and gives them a lot more room to work with,â€ Crunkilton said.
The Wildcats added to their 2-0 lead in the third inning. Raven lined a two-out double down the left-field line and came home on Alex Fifeâ€™s base hit up the middle. The throw from center beat Raven to the plate, but the sliding Wildcat sophomore touched the inside of the plate before Bodie Cooper could apply the tag.
Relief pitcher Braxton Devereaux, however, escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fourth inning with a forceout at the plate and a strikeout.
WNC extended its cushion to 4-0 in the fifth. Successive base hits by Fife, Christian Stolo and Kody Reynolds sent Fife home. Pinch-hitter Austin Andrewsâ€™ base hit to left loaded the bases against reliever Erik Nouis. The Golden Eagles prevented the Wildcats from blowing the game open by executing a double play to end the inning.
Raven allowed only three Golden Eagles to reach base in the first five frames.
But the Golden Eagles used an error to kick-start a sixth-inning rally. Skyler Souzaâ€™s two-run double to center cut WNCâ€™s lead to 4-2. Bush pulled CSI within a run with a base hit to center. Cooper continued the rally with a wind-blown double away from right fielder Crunkilton, sending Bush to third base.
Greer replaced Raven on the mound and proceeded to walk Jordan Godman to fill the bases. He subsequently settled in, striking out Preston Young on three pitches. Then, he induced a pop out off the bat of Cody Jenkins to leave the bases loaded and preserve WNCâ€™s 4-3 lead.
With Raven sailing along with a shutout, Greer wasnâ€™t expecting to enter the game. â€œI asked â€˜Whittâ€™ if I could eat or if Rayne was going to go a complete game, which meant I could eat before the start of the next game,â€ Greer said.
â€œI ended up eating the lunch and 30 seconds later, I have to go warm up. It was kind of a rough situation, but I was able to work through it.â€
In the seventh, Isaac Anderson singled off Greer with one out to put the potential tying run on base. After a wild pitch moved Anderson into scoring position, Greer fanned Nathan Ackerman. Another wild pitch sent Anderson to third base and Souza walked on four pitches. Souza took second base on defensive indifference, setting up the final confrontation with Bush.
First baseman Stolo, who competed against Bush while he played for McQueen High and Bush suited up for Reno High School, was part of two meetings on the mound prior to Greerâ€™s clutch strikeout for his second save of the season.
â€œHe came out mainly to calm me down, but Stolo knows these guys, what pitches to throw and how to get them out, so you have to give a credit to him,â€ Greer said.
Raven gave up six hits and struck out six to earn his team-leading fifth win.
â€œI felt good the first five innings. The third time around the lineup, they got the best of me,â€ Raven said. â€œI owe a lot of it to Spencer because he came in and shut them down.
â€œHeâ€™s a bulldog, so heâ€™s not going to lose his composure and heâ€™s not going to get stressed.â€
In the wet and windy second game, Greer surrendered a one-out single to Ackerman in the first inning, then held the Golden Eagles hitless for the remainder of his outing. He finished with one strikeout and no walks.
CSI starting pitcher Zack Draper kept the Wildcats off the scoreboard until the fourth inning. Base hits by Reynolds and Austin Andrews and a walk to Fife loaded the bags. Draper hit Spenser Dorsey with a pitch to score Reynolds with the first run. Tony Roqueâ€™s safety squeeze bunt plated Fife with the Wildcatsâ€™ second run.
In the fifth, the Wildcats again used the sacrifice bunt to manufacture offense. This time, Raven executed the fundamental, bringing home Harber from third base to give WNC a 3-0 lead.
WNC pushed its lead to 4-0 in the sixth inning when Andrews came home on Kyle Hendersonâ€™s bases-loaded fielderâ€™s choice.
Connor Zwetsch completed the shutout for the Wildcats, working the final three innings. He gave up one hit and struck out five.
In the final three games of the series, WNC hurlers gave up just four runs and 14 hits.
â€œAfter losing game one, you have to win series at home, and you have to do it one pitch at a time and one game at a time,â€ Moody said. â€œWe preach to win every pitch and play one pitch at a time, and I thought we did that throughout the series.â€
Next up for the Wildcats (25-11 overall) is a road trip to SWAC-leading Salt Lake. The four-game series begins Friday.