Dusting themselves off after their worst loss of the season, the Western Nevada College Wildcats showed why they are still playing baseball in the middle of May.
Spenser Dorsey belted a two-run homer and the Wildcats rapped out eight hits in the first three innings en route to an 8-2 victory over Trinidad State of Trinidad, Colo., at the Western District Tournament on Friday in Phoenix.
â€œA great job by our team of bouncing back, which theyâ€™ve done all year,â€ WNC coach D.J. Whittemore said. â€œIt was an all-around team effort.
â€œWeâ€™ve got to win one game tonight, so weâ€™re really not thinking at all about tomorrow.â€
WNC also benefitted from the long relief effort by freshman Connor Zwetsch, who pitched a season-high seven innings and allowed just two runs. Zwetsch (3-0) came into the postseason game with 24 2/3 innings of work in 15 appearances.
Zwetschâ€™s previous high this season was three innings.
â€œHe was outstanding and came up clutch for us,â€ Whittemore said.
Hence, the Wildcats earned a second elimination game on Friday. The Wildcats (40-17) will meet the loser of the Cochise-South Mountain matchup at 3 p.m.
After being dealt its only mercy-rule defeat of the season to South Mountain on Thursday 16-8, the Wildcats didnâ€™t let that performance have a lingering effect.
The Wildcatsâ€™ bats rattled from the get-go. In WNCâ€™s two-run first inning, there were four hits, including doubles by Joey Crunkilton and Alex Fife.
WNC tacked on a third run in the second inning without the benefit of a hit. Trojans sophomore right-hander Erik Bussey issued a walk to Tony Roque, who then stole second base. Roque advanced to third on a Jake Bennett groundout and scored on a Connor Klein squeeze bunt down the first-base line.
Deciding to preserve his starting pitchers, Whittemore pulled Max Karnos after his second inning on the mound. Zwetsch came in from the bullpen to strike out the first hitter he faced. Trinidad State delivered its first hit in the inning on Julien Belangerâ€™s base hit. Belanger eventually came home on a third-strike wild pitch by Zwetsch. However, a defensive gem by third baseman Austin Andrews for the third out prevented the Trojans from putting together a bigger scoring threat.
The Wildcats kept the pressure on Trinidad State in the third. A walk to Alex Fife and a single by Conor Harber put runners on the corners. Harber stole second base and a catcherâ€™s throwing error allowed Fife to score the Wildcatsâ€™ fourth run and Harber to take third.
Dorsey followed with a two-run homer over the left-field fence for a 6-0 lead.
Bussey was removed after Dorseyâ€™s fifth homer of the season, leaving after giving up six hits.
Brandon Lapointe greeted sophomore lefty Jean-Felix Proulx with a two-bagger and advanced to third on a groundout by Andrews. Roqueâ€™s single past diving shortstop Wesley Aguilar brought home Lapointe, increasing WNCâ€™s lead to 7-0. Roque stole his second base of the game but was stranded in scoring position.
Zwetsch struggled with his control in his third inning of work. The Trojans, however, didnâ€™t take advantage of two walks, a hit batsman and a wild pitch. Reserve catcher Kyle Henderson helped Zwetsch by throwing out a Trojan base runner.
Each time the Trojans seemed to start a rally, the Wildcats made a defensive play. Max Brouillard singled off Zwetsch to start the Trojan sixth, but a double play turned by Klein and Roque preserved WNCâ€™s 7-1 advantage.
In the seventh inning, Zwetschâ€™s two-out wild pitch enabled Beau Talley to score to trim WNCâ€™s lead to 7-2. But catcher Sam Hall prevented more damage by throwing out a Trojan trying to steal second base.
The Wildcats struggled with Proulx until the ninth inning. Fife hit his second double of the game with two outs. Harberâ€™s followed with a RBI single to push WNCâ€™s lead to 8-2.
Dorsey went 4 for 5, while Harber, Fife and Crunkilton each supplied two hits.
Zwetsch made three-inning stints against South Mountain on Feb. 2, College of Southern Idaho on March 29, Salt Lake on April 5 and CSI on May 3.
Only twice this season have the Wildcats lost two games in row.
The win also bumped up the teamâ€™s season win total to 40 games, marking the sixth straight season the Wildcats have reached that plateau.
Whittemore plans to start sophomore Christian Stolo (6-3, 2.73 ERA) in tonightâ€™s elimination game.
â€œWe feel great about that. Christian is one of the best pitchers weâ€™ve ever had,â€ Whittemore said.