For the second time in a little more than 24 hours, South Mountain Community College did what no other team in the West could do to the Western Nevada College Wildcats during the 2014 baseball season: win in abbreviated fashion.
The Cougars ousted the Wildcats from the Western District Tournament, 9-1, in seven innings on Friday in Phoenix.
“We had an incredible run and just feel grateful for the opportunity to lace them up every day together. It’s gonna be hard to replace this team’s chemistry and selflessness,” said WNC coach D.J. Whittemore.
The host Cougars scored five runs in the seventh inning on a pair of two-run singles to deliver he knockout blow to WNC, which staved off elimination with an 8-2 victory over Trinidad State on Friday morning.
South Mountain opened the tournament on Thursday by rallying for a 16-8 seven-inning victory over WNC.
The Cougars will meet Cochise of Douglas, Ariz., in Saturdayâ€™s championship game. Cochise defeated South Mountain, 13-3, in five innings on Friday afternoon.
WNC took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly by Christian Stolo, but the Wildcat bats went quiet after that because of a dominant pitching performance by Cody Lawson.
Lawson pitched the distance for the Cougars, throwing a two-hitter. He struck out five and walked one.
Melvin Grayâ€™s three-run triple off Rayne Raven highlighted South Mountainâ€™s four-run fourth inning.
The Wildcats threatened in the sixth inning when Sam Hall singled and Jake Bennett walked with no outs. They moved up a base on a Connor Klein bunt. But Lawson retired Stolo on a strikeout and Joey Crunkiltonâ€™s line drive was snared by third baseman Jeff Carter, preserving South Mountainâ€™s 4-1 lead.
Carter and Ethan Springston socked two-RBI base hits in the seventh, the latter ending the game.
Raven started for the Wildcats, giving up five hits and four runs. Raven fanned five and walked two. He was followed by Max Karnos, who tossed the first two innings of the Wildcatsâ€™ victory against Trinidad State.
Karnos recorded a couple of scoreless innings before the Cougars started connecting off him. He gave up nine hits, five walks and five earned runs.
Bennett had the only other hit off Lawson, a double in the fourth inning. Klein moved him to third base on a groundout to the right side, and Stolo followed with a sacrifice fly.
WNC finished with a 40-18 record, its sixth straight season with 40 or more wins. The Wildcats also won their second straight Region 18 title and played in the Western District Tournament for a third straight season, winning the title in 2012 and losing last yearâ€™s final to Cochise.
“Incredible accomplishment by this team winning 40 games,” Whittemore said. “Incredible accomplishments by this team winning back-to-back Region 18 titles. Great leadership, work ethic, consistent performances. To only two games in a row twice in row twice all season is just a testament to this team’s understanding of how to play baseball.
“Our assistants and players worked their way to being forever a championship team. This is one of the most satisfying and awesome teams ever to come through this program.”