Western Nevada College produced the start that it coveted against North Idaho in the Region 18 softball tournament on Wednesday in Twin Falls, Idaho.
The Wildcats scored four first-inning runs, but the Cardinals rallied behind Hayden Fieldsâ€™ five RBI for a 10-6 victory on the opening day of the double-elimination tournament.
WNC (12-45) will meet Colorado Northwestern Community College (8-46) in an elimination game at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
A two-run homer by freshman Katilyn Covione, her team-leading seventh of the season, contributed to the Wildcatsâ€™ fast start. Lindsey Ashbaugh delivered a run-scoring double and Makenzie Hospodka drove in a run with a single in the first inning.
“It shows how well we hit early against them because North Idaho had to use their whole pitching staff against us,” said WNC coach Leah Wentworth.
But the Cardinals (36-20) began chipping away at the deficit in their first at-bat. Madison Anthonyâ€™s two-run double to center field cut WNCâ€™s lead in half, 4-2.
North Idaho took the lead for good in the third frame, scoring three times. Anthony led off the rally by homering to left field, and the Cardinals added two more runs, both unearned, to go ahead, 5-4.
Fields doubled in two more runs as North Idaho extended its lead to 7-4 in the fourth.
“We were just inconsistent offensively and flat in the middle innings,” Wentworth said.
WNCâ€™s leadoff hitter Madi Gonzalez doubled to left field to start the fifth inning. She later scored on a wild pitch as the Wildcats crept to within 7-5.
Fields, however, came up big again in the sixth, launching a three-run homer with two out as the Cardinals raised its lead to 10-5.
The Wildcats didnâ€™t go away quietly in their last at-bat. Katelyn Bomar doubled and scored on Covioneâ€™s base hit to left. However, the Cardinals diffused the rally with a double play and a strikeout.
WNC has now lost eight of nine games against North Idaho this season.
Five of the Wildcatsâ€™ eight hits went for extra bases. Covione and Ashbaugh led WNC with two hits apiece.
Sophomore Carlee Beck (7-19) started in the circle for the Wildcats, giving up 10 hits and five earned runs. Covione limited the Cardinals to two hits and no earned runs in 2 1/3 innings of relief.
The Wildcats have won six of eight games against CNCC this season. WNC earned its first Region 18 tournament victory in program history last season with a 2-0 win vs. CNCC.
If the Wildcats defeat the Spartans, they will play either Snow or host College of Southern Idaho in a second elimination game at 4 p.m. Thursday.
In other tournament results on Wednesday, Snow surprised College of Southern Nevada, 7-2, and Salt Lake blanked CNCC, 5-0.