Seeing their chances of winning the Scenic West Athletic Conference baseball title diminishing with a first-game defeat to Salt Lake on Friday, the Western Nevada College Wildcats pulled off a crucial 5-3 victory to stay in contention.
Joey Crunkilton drove in four runs and Spencer Greer tossed 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief as the Wildcats handed the Bruins their first home loss and earned a doubleheader split with the SWAC leaders in Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake won the opening game of the four-game series that launched the second half of the SWAC season, 4-3, on Derrick Whitneyâ€™s sacrifice fly in the sixth inning.
WNC (11-7) trails Salt Lake (14-4) by three games.
Crunkilton drilled a single to score Tony Roque with the go-ahead run in the seventh inning of game two. Conor Harberâ€™s RBI base hit put WNC ahead 5-3 in the eighth.
Greer gained a share of the WNC pitching staff lead with his fifth victory.
The sophomore relieved Rayne Raven in the sixth inning and held the Bruins to three hits the rest of the way. He struck out four and didnâ€™t walk a batter.
The Wildcats totaled 11 hits off four Bruin hurlers. Jake Bennett led the way with by going 3 for 5. Harber and Crunkilton collected two hits apiece.
Crunkilton had a sacrifice fly in the first frame, a RBI ground-rule double in the third, a bases-loaded walk in the fifth and a decisive base hit in the seventh.
In the opener, the Wildcats nearly pulled off a comeback win after trailing 3-0 entering the fifth inning.
The Wildcats scored once in the fifth inning and twice in the sixth to knot the score at 3. Salt Lake, however, used a leadoff double by Nick Urban and Whitneyâ€™s sacrifice fly to reclaim the lead in the bottom of the sixth.
Salt Lake closer Eric Carter retired the Wildcats in order, including two by strikeout, in the seventh to notch his ninth save of the season.
Alex Fife ignited the Wildcatsâ€™ sixth-inning rally against Jason Jourdan with a leadoff walk. The sophomore then stole second base and scored on a triple by Kody Reynolds. Bennettâ€™s sacrifice bunt on the right side of the infield enabled Reynolds to sprint home with the tying run.
The rally ended another effective effort by Jourdan against the Wildcats. On Feb. 21 in a nonconference meeting, Jourdan allowed two hits in 7 1/3 innings in a 4-3 Salt Lake victory. In a no-decision on March 1 at John L. Harvey Field, Jourdan gave up three hits and two earned runs as Salt Lake defeated WNC, 6-2.
The loss ended a trend of recent success for the Wildcats in Salt Lake. The Wildcats won all four games there a year ago and eight of the past 11 meetings in Salt Lake.
In the decisive sixth, Urban smacked a double and went to third on Summerhaysâ€™ sacrifice bunt. Harber came on in relief of Jeremy Alderman, looking for a strikeout. But Whitneyâ€™s fly ball to center was deep enough to allow Urban to dash home with the tie-breaking run.
WNC missed a chance to break out to an early lead.
Harber led off the game with a base hit and went to second on a Crunkilton walk. A base on balls to Sam Hall filled the bags with one out. But Jourdan helped himself by fielding Fifeâ€™s comebacker and forcing out Harber at the plate and then striking out Reynolds to end the inning.
Salt Lake scored in the first when Colton Barkdull doubled, advanced to third on a Christian Stolo wild pitch and came home on a passed ball.
In the second inning, Taylor Snyder came around to score on a Zach Willis base hit to move the Bruins ahead, 2-0.
WNC threatened in the third when Fife doubled with two outs, but Jourdan escaped that jam as well.
Caleb Summerhaysâ€™ RBI double in third off Stolo increased Salt Lakeâ€™s lead to 3-0.
WNC got on the scoreboard in the fifth. Harber doubled to lead off the inning. Crunkilton sacrificed Harber to third and Raven broke up the shutout with a sacrifice fly.
Stolo worked 3 1/3 innings, surrendering seven hits and three earned runs. He struck out three and didnâ€™t walk a hitter.
Like Stolo, Jourdan didnâ€™t figure in the pitching decision. Jourdan gave up four hits, walked five and fanned six in five innings.
WNC is 26-12 overall and Salt Lake is 26-10.
The teams conclude their four-game series with a twin bill beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday.