The Western Nevada College baseball team came out on top in the Scenic West Athletic Conferenceâ€™s round-robin competition over the weekend.
Now WNC, which improved to 11-5 overall, will play Salt Lake, the only team to beat the Wildcats in Henderson, on Saturday and Sunday , March 1-2, at John L. Harvey Field. The conference-opening doubleheaders begin at noon both days, weather permitting.
â€œItâ€™s going to be a long, hard-fought battle in the Scenic West; it seems to be very evenly matched,â€ Whittemore said.
The 14th-ranked Wildcats turned the tables on their SWAC foes, leading the way by winning three of four games. Salt Lake, College of Southern Idaho and College of Southern Nevada posted 2-2 records, while Colorado Northwestern was 1-3.
Unlike last year, when the Wildcats went 1-3, this yearâ€™s results wonâ€™t count toward the conference standings.
The Wildcats capped their southern swing with a 9-7 victory over host CSN on Sunday afternoon.
â€œIt was a great way for us to finish out the weekend, especially coming out and playing real well after an emotional victory the night before and being our fourth game of the weekend,â€ WNC coach D.J. Whittemore said. â€œOur guys were warriors and were out there battling every pitch, and CSN did the same. It was a couple of heavyweight fighters, and we landed the last punch.â€
The Wildcats knocked out 14 hits against four Coyote pitchers and used a strong relief performance by Thomas Kerr to win their third straight game.
Sophomores Joey Crunkilton, Conor Harber, Rayne Raven and Alex Fife and freshman Jake Bennett each collected two hits. Crunkilton knocked in four runs, while Harber crossed home plate three times. Bennett and Fife scored five runs between them.
Kerr prevented the Coyotes from overtaking the Wildcats, throwing 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. He allowed two hits and struck out three in relief of starter Jeremy Alderman, who threw the first 4 1/3 innings and allowed one earned run on five hits. Kerr earned the win to even his record at 1-1.
Freshman relief pitcher Connor Zwetsch gave up two earned runs in the ninth inning.
WNC turned four double plays, including three in the first four innings.
The Wildcats scored six runs in the first two innings, but the Coyotes closed within 6-5 in the fifth, chasing Alderman. WNC got a run in the seventh on Connor Kleinâ€™s base hit that plated Harber.
The Wildcats extended their lead to 9-5 in the eighth inning with the benefit of a two-out rally. Fife doubled, Harber walked and Crunkilton singled in Fife, with Harber scoring on an infield error.
CSN had the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth, but Zwetsch recorded the final out on a fly ball.