Facing elimination Sunday at the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series, the Western Nevada College Wildcats turned to reliable sources to continue their record-setting season.
Sophomore right-hander Dylan Baker struck out 10 and kept the Cisco Wranglers guessing while Dylan Ness knocked in three runs with a seeing-eye double en route to a 9-2 victory in Grand Junction, Colo.
WNC continues the double-elimination tournament Monday against Iowa Western (58-6) at 9 a.m. The victory, the Wildcats' 48th, equalled the school's single-season mark set back in 2009 when WNC finished third at the JUCO World Series.
The victory also marked the 300th win of head coach D.J. Whittemore's coaching career at Western Nevada. Whittemore's seven-year record at WNC is 300-124-2.
Baker (13-0) blanked the Wranglers for five innings before giving up a two-run homer to Cody Tillotson in the sixth. He left after allowing Cisco's seventh hit in the seventh, and Brandon Jackson closed the door with two runners on base with a strikeout and fly out. Jackson also recorded two strikeouts in the ninth, giving the Wildcats 13 overall.
Ness' double off the glove of a diving outfielder allowed three runs to score, capping a five-run WNC third inning. Neil Lawhorn added three hits as WNC totaled 12 against two Cisco pitchers.
The Wildcats scored three insurance runs in the ninth.
Wranglers sophomore pitcher Brad Vachon used a breaking ball to strike out two of the three Wildcats he punched out in the first inning.
However, WNC's highly regarded pitcher Baker was nearly as sharp in striking out three in the bottom of the inning. But after fanning the first two hitters, Baker ran into a bit of trouble by surrendering a double to center field by Alvaro Moreno and a walk to Tillotson. But after falling behind the previous two hitters, Baker struck out Jake Armstrong, batting .445, on three pitches.
Rayne Raven gave the Wildcats' offense a lift in the second inning. In his first at-bat of the tournament, Raven took a two-strike pitch down the right-field line to plate Ness, who was hit by a pitch with two outs. Vachon was preoccupied with Ness at first throughout Raven's at-bat, throwing over to first five times.
The Wranglers were unable to cash in a leadoff double by Mark Davis in the second inning. A groundout and two strikeouts by Baker extinguished the rally.
The Wildcats figured out Vachon in the third, sending nine hitters to the plate to package five runs on five hits.
Bobby Pappin triggered WNC's first multi-run uprising of the tournament by lining a triple to the gap in right-center field. Neil Lawhorn followed with a run-scoring single, putting WNC ahead 2-0. Chris Woolley made it three straight hits for the Wildcats, slashing a base hit to right field, moving Lawhorn to second. Both runners moved ahead a base on a passed ball, removing the need for a sacrifice bunt. Then, Taylor Smart walked to fill the bases. After Derrick PItts lined out to second base, Zach Hendrix slammed a base hit to right field, scoring Lawhorn for a 3-0 WNC lead. Vachon appeared on the verge of minimizing the damage after a fly out by Mike Umscheid, but Ness punched a short liner into center field that popped out of the glove of a sprawling Heath Herrington. All three Wildcat base runners scored on the double, pushing WNC in front 6-0.
Baker stranded four Wranglers on base through three innings. It was only Baker's second start of the postseason and first since May 11 at the Region 18 tournament.
In the Wildcats' three-run ninth inning, Smart scored Lawhorn with a double to left field. Pitts followed with a run-scoring groundout to second, and Hendrix's RBI single to center scored Smart with the Wildcats' final run.
Lawhorn led the Wildcats with three hits, two runs scored and an RBI. Smart was 2-4 with two runs and an RBI, Hendrix knocked in two runs while going 2-5 and Raven finished 2-4 with an RBI.
Iowa Western advanced to play WNC by beating Spartanburg, S.C., 4-1.
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