For only the second time in program history, the Western Nevada College softball team defeated Salt Lake on Saturday at Edmonds Sports Complex in Carson City.
To do so, the Wildcats overcame a midgame deficit, fought through frequent high-wind gusts and vanquished a final-out rally by the Bruins to notch the 8-7 Scenic West Athletic Conference victory.
â€œWe talked to them earlier in the year about them making sure they learn from the first day that they play a team,â€ said WNC coach Leah Wentworth, whose club dropped the first two games of the series on Friday afternoon.
The teams were unable to complete the second game due to safety concerns caused by strong winds affecting playersâ€™ and umpiresâ€™ vision.
â€œIt was getting unsafe,â€ Wentworth said. â€œAll of the wind, and the dirt was starting to get into everybodyâ€™s eyes, and the umpires were starting to feel like their visibility was bad, and if their visibility was bad, they could get hurt and so could the girls, so it was more about safety.â€
Salt Lake led game two 7-1 after two innings, but wonâ€™t receive the win because the game didnâ€™t reach an official length. Wentworth said the game wonâ€™t be made up in all likelihood.
The victory was the Wildcatsâ€™ first SWAC win in seven decisions. Salt Lake dropped to 7-4.
The first-game victory was particularly sweet for WNC winning pitcher Carlee Beck, who grew up in Layton, Utah, 24 miles outside of Salt Lake City.
â€œIt was so exciting because growing up I lived about 30 minutes from SLCC, so I always watched them play. To go out today and finally beat them was really nice,â€ Beck said.
Beck gave up 10 hits and three earned runs in earning the complete-game victory.
â€œSome of the best games out of her have always come against the best competition,â€ Wenworth said. â€œShe has shown a lot of growth this year, and sheâ€™s doing a great job on the mound for us.â€
The pressure mounted for Beck and the Wildcats in the top of the seventh inning when Salt Lake nearly rallied from a three-run deficit.
Beck struck out Megan Bradshaw, who had homered in her previous at-bat, for the second out, but hit KyRae Kogianes with a pitch, bringing the tying run to the plate. Payton Hart then delivered her third hit of the game, a run-scoring single to slice WNCâ€™s lead to 8-6. Beck got the first two strikes in against Bailie Nelson, but Nelson dug in and provided a base hit to plate Kogianes and pull the Bruins within a run.
Beck, however, retired Taylor Tann for the first time in four at-bats, forcing her into a groundout to end the game.
â€œIt was kind of nerve-wracking,â€ Beck said. â€œI played against her all throughout my high school career, but I pushed through.â€
The Hospodka twins, Makenzie and Meghan, combined for five hits, four runs scored and two RBI. Makenzie had three of the Wildcatsâ€™ eight hits.
â€œTheyâ€™ve been consistent so far for us. This series they did a great job. They were on base pretty much the whole time,â€ said Wentworth, who now has the sisters hitting first and third in the batting order. â€œWe had them at 5 and 6 in the lineup earlier, but having them toward the top, we get a lot more production and a lot more at-bats out of them.â€
Beck sailed through the first two innings, retiring six of the first seven women she faced.
Salt Lake pushed across the first run in the third inning, scoring with two outs when Corinne Cleverly used her speed to steal a run. Cleverly advanced to third after Beck fielded a grounder back to the mound and forced out Tann at third base. When Courtney Beavers drew a throw to second, Cleverly took advantage and beat the throw to the plate.
The Wildcats pulled even in their half of the third on a two-out infield single by Meghan Hospodka. The hit scored Makenzie Hospodka, who doubled to center to start the rally.
The Bruins used some more heads-up baserunning to retake the lead, 2-1, in the fourth. Kogianes put the brakes on at third base on a base hit to left -by Payton Hart but advanced home when Hart coaxed a throw while attempting to move up to second base.
Megan Reidâ€™s sacrifice fly moved Salt Lake in front 3-1 in the fifth.
The Wildcats fought back in their half of the fifth inning, sending 10 hitters to the plate and scoring six times to go ahead 7-3. Base hits by Lindsey Ashbaugh and Makenzie Hospodka and the first free pass of the game to Katilyn Covione loaded the bases with one out. With two strikes, Meghan Hospodka delivered a run-scoring base hit to trim Salt Lakeâ€™s lead to 3-2.
Pinch-hitter Heather Septon came through with one of the clutch at-bats of the season for WNC. Battling pitcher Baylee Reeves with foul ball after foul ball, Septon took Reevesâ€™ 15th offering for a walk, bringing home Makenzie Hospodka with the tying run.
Salt Lake brought in reliever Courtney Platt, and Jenny Rechel blooped a single into center field, scoring Katilyn Covione with the go-ahead run.
WNC extended its lead to 7-3 when Meghan Hospodka scored on a passed ball and Septon and Rechel came home on a two-out throwing error by third baseman Bradshaw.
Bradshaw shook off the error and led off the Bruin sixth by hitting the 11th pitch of her at-bat against Beck over the center-field fence. Tannâ€™s single knocked in Hart to make the score 7-5, but Beck was able to get the next two hitters on groundouts.
In the WNC sixth, Makenzie Hospodka got one of the runs back when she won a long battle with Platt by slamming her first homer of the season beyond the left-field fence.
Game two was a different story.
The Bruins jumped out to a 7-0 lead, using some breakdowns by WNC defensively and some power hitting.
In the Bruinsâ€™ five-run first inning, the Wildcats committed four errors. Hart had the only RBI of the rally with a double.
Bradshaw belted her second homer of the afternoon, a two-run shot in the second.
But on this blustery day, the winds had the final say as the umpires decided to call the game before the top of the third inning.
A change in scheduling will keep WNC (4-12 overall) at home next week against Colorado Northwestern Community College. Doubleheaders are scheduled Feb. 21 and 22 at Edmonds Sports Complex.