Western Nevada College pulled off a rare triple play and executed three double plays, but it wasnâ€™t enough to prevent College of Southern Idaho from ending its hopes of hosting the Region 18 Tournament next week.
Kolton Brost became the first pitcher to shut out the Wildcats this season, blanking the Wildcats on four hits and striking out 11 as the Golden Eagles carved out a 5-0 Scenic West Athletic Conference baseball victory on Friday in Twin Falls, Idaho.
“Brost had every answer against us,” said WNC coach D.J. Whittemore.
However, the Wildcats rebounded to win the second game, 8-2, behind Joey Crunkiltonâ€™s three RBI and the five-hit pitching of three hurlers to keep alive their hopes of tying Salt Lake for the conference title.
By losing the series opener, WNC (35-15 overall, 20-10 SWAC) will enter next weekâ€™s region tournament at Salt Lake Community College (22-10) as the conferenceâ€™s No. 2 seed. Salt Lake wins a tiebreaker if the two teams should tie since the Bruins have a better record than WNC against third-place College of Southern Nevada. The top two SWAC team splits their season series, 4-4.
The Wildcats came into the series needing to win all four games in order to host next weekâ€™s five-team Region 18 Tournament. Current SWAC leader Salt Lake finished conference play the previous week with a 22-10 record.
It was the first time WNC has been shut out since Mount Hood blanked the Wildcats 3-0 on March 15, 2013.
WNC missed a chance to take an early lead, stranding Conor Harber and Crunkilton on third and second bases, respectively, in the first inning. Both reached on base hits and advanced into scoring position with stolen bases.
But after the back-to-back hits by the Wildcats, Brost (7-3) struck out the next three hitters.
The Wildcats turned double plays in the first two innings, but the Golden Eagles loaded the bases with no one out in the third inning. For the third straight inning, CSI put a runner on base against Wildcat starter Rayne Raven (7-3) when Harrison Ramey lined a base hit, then advanced to second base on a passed ball. Raven walked Bobby Wright after battling back to a full count, then Cody Schmidtâ€™s well-executed bunt turned into a base hit to fill the bags.
However, Ravenâ€™s defense got him out of a jam with a rare triple play. Connor Klein started the triple play by fielding Preston Youngâ€™s grounder and tossing to shortstop Tony Roque to force out Schmidt at second base and then throwing to first baseman Spenser Dorsey for the second out. Dorsey then fired to third baseman Austin Andrews, who tagged out Wright. Ramey came home before the third out was recorded, putting CSI ahead 1-0.
Raven ran into more trouble in the fourth when Jordan Godman led off with a double. Isaac Andersonâ€™s base hit sent home Godman with CSIâ€™s second run. A.J. VanMeetren ended Ravenâ€™s afternoon on the hill with another single.
Spencer Greer relieved Raven. Greer lost Bodie Cooper on a full count, with the free pass loading the bases. Rameyâ€™s fielderâ€™s choice scored Anderson to make the score 3-0. Wright was hit by a pitch to reload the bases. A balk by Greer allowed VanMeetren to score before Greer completed a strikeout of Schmidt to end the rally.
After the shaky start, Brost settled down to retire nine straight Wildcats.
But the Wildcats did mount another scoring threat in the fifth when Klein and Dorsey hit consecutive hits. However, Brost recorded three straight outs, including two strikeouts, to escape the jam.
In the CSI fifth, Godman led off an inning with a double for the second time. He eventually scored on a fielderâ€™s choice as CSI built a 5-0 lead.
In the second game, WNC only had two more hits than it did in the opener and committed four errors but cruised to a six-run victory.
Sophomore pitcher Christian Stolo, returning from a broken finger, allowed just three hits and one earned run in four innings. Stolo struck out eight and walked three in earning his fifth win in eight decisions.
Conor Harber followed Stolo on the mound, giving up two hits and one run in 3 1/3 innings. He fanned four and walked four.
Jeremy Alderman closed out the victory, holding the Golden Eagles hitless for the remaining 1 2/3 innings.
The Wildcats used extra-base hits to end their scoring drought for the day. During a three-run second inning, Crunkilton smacked his team-leading seventh home run and Sam Hall delivered a double to score Alex Fife. Hall scored the third run of the inning on a safety squeeze bunt by Brandon Lapointe.
“Joey’s homer was big for us. It was our first run of the day, and it brought a change in the momentum,” Whittemore said.
Crunkilton picked up his second RBI of the game by driving in Stolo from third base with a base hit in the fifth inning.
After CSI trimmed its deficit to 4-2 in its half of the fifth, the Wildcats pulled away with two-run seventh and ninth innings.
In the seventh, Lapointe scored on a wild pitch by Eric Nouis with the bases loaded. Crunkilton added a sacrifice fly to put WNC in front, 6-2.
WNC completed the scoring in the ninth with Lapointe crossing the plate on a wild pitch and Stolo coming home on Jake Bennettâ€™s bunt.
WNC won three of four games when the teams met March 28 and 29 in Carson City.
CSI entered the final four games with a slim chance of overtaking College of Southern Nevada for third place and avoiding a first-round game with Colorado Northwestern on Wednesday.
The Wildcats will conclude their regular-season schedule with a twin bill against CSI starting at 11 a.m. Saturday. Whittemore wants his team to enjoy the last day of the regular season.
“These guys are young men and they are enjoying a game meant for kids, so we just want to go out and have fun (Saturday), that’s the main thing,” Whittemore said.