CARSON CITY –Western Nevada College is one victory away from a trip to the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series after an 11-4 semifinal victory Friday over Central Arizona College.
With the win, WNC will face CAC again in the Western District finals at noon Saturday at John L. Harvey Field. If the Wildcats can win one of a possible two games against the Vaqueros, they will head for the JUCO World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., May 23-30.
WNC used stellar fielding and key offensive spurts to beat a team that has been nationally ranked in the top ten of NJCAA Division One teams all season. The Wildcats, ranked No. 11 in the final NJCAA season polls, also managed to save several of its top pitchers for the Saturday finals, in anticipation of a hard-fought contest.
Both teams were held scoreless in the first two innings, despite the Vaqueros loading the bases in the top of the second, and the Wildcats’ second baseman Mike Long banging a double in the bottom of the inning. Central Arizona took a 3-0 lead in the top of the third inning, but WNC evened the score in the bottom of the inning with a solo home run by first baseman Eric Maupin and a two-run RBI by third baseman Travis Feiner.
The Vaqueros never held the lead again, as WNC used stellar fielding and a total of 16 hits to take control of the game. Shortstop Daniel Zylstra was at the top of his game, using crafty base running in the fourth inning to score on a Maupin sacrifice fly, and then turned multiple infield hits into outs with skill and speed to keep Central Arizona off the bases.
WNC scored three in the fifth and two in the sixth innings before the Vaqueros added one in the seventh. Western added one each in the seventh and eighth innings to seal the victory.
Head Coach DJ Whittemore said his team’s fielding was “game changing” and called Zylstra’s efforts “amazing, spectacular. Our pitch and play defense was huge.”
Whittemore also credited hitting coach Aaron Demosthenes with helping the Wildcats be productive at the plate. “We had some great at-bats, and that’s because our pitching coach is one of the best in the country,” he said.
Now, as the team looks toward a possible trip to the JUCO World Series, Whittemore said there’s no room for letting their guard down.
“We still feel a lot of pressure,” and plan to be ready for the test.
No wonder: Central Arizona crushed Northeastern Junior College 25-2 in the late afternoon game Friday, to reach the championship game.