After their most unexpected defeat of the baseball season, the Western Nevada College Wildcats got back on track on April 12 and 13 with doubleheader sweeps of the College of Eastern Utah Golden Eagles in Price, Utah.
The Wildcats produced on offense and kept the Golden Eagles from putting together a big inning on April 12 to score 12-4 and 11-2 victories. WNC completed the four-game sweep with 13-2 and 5-0 wins on April 13.
"We were outstanding in all four phases of the game," said WNC Coach D.J. Whittemore. "A lot of our at-bats were consistently good, the base running was excellent, our defense was possibly the best it has been all year and our pitching continued to do what it has done all year, which is noting shorting of amazing."
The four-game series was moved up a day to avoid a snowstorm moving into the area. WNC departed Carson City at 4:30 a.m. for the 1 p.m. opening doubleheader in Price.
"It was one of best weekends of baseball we've had this year and maybe we've ever had," Whittemore said. "We had lots of adversity to overcome. Our guys were really focused, and we got great results."
The Scenic West Athletic Conference four-game sweep allowed WNC (22-5) to keep pace with first-place Salt Lake (22-3) and helped take the sting out of a 6-4 home defeat to Colorado Northwestern on April 7. With 12 games remaining in the conference season, including eight on the road, Salt Lake has a one-game lead over the Wildcats, as well as an .880 winning average compared to .815 for WNC. If the teams should finish in a tie, winning average will be used to break the tie. The SWAC champion will host the Region XVIII Tournament May 9-13.
"It's big positive as well because we are going to be playoff ready and battle-tested," Whittemore said of the difficult stretch of games to end the regular season. "It's fun to play against best teams and fun to accept the challenge of trying to win on the road. We are just really looking forward to it."
In the opener, WNC took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Alex Schmidt's groundout scored Zach Hendrix.
The Wildcats erupted for six runs in the third inning to take a 7-0 lead. Bobby Pappin stroked a two-run double and Derrick Pitts belted a RBI double during an inning where 12 Wildcats batted.
Neil Lawhorn drilled his fourth homer of the season in the fifth to put WNC ahead 8-1.
In the sixth, Pitts hit his second double of the game and scored on Mike Umscheid's two-bagger. Schmidt's base hit plated Umscheid, giving WNC a 10-1 lead.
After the Golden Eagles scored three runs in its half of the sixth to make the score 10-4, WNC tacked on its final two runs in the seventh. Hendrix's two-out single scored Taylor Smart and Chris Woolley.
Starting pitcher Andrew Woeck tossed three hitless innings to earn his sixth win in eight decisions. He was followed on the mound by Tyler Spencer, Brandon Show and Matt Robertson. Pitts led the Wildcats with three hits, while Hendrix and Schmidt each drove in three runs. Woolley and Hendrix knocked out two hits apiece.
The second game was similar to the first as the Wildcats put crooked numbers on the scoreboard early in the contest. WNC scored six times in the second and five in the third to finish off the Golden Eagles in six innings.
"That's something we talked about this week, scoring early and really having high expectations for scoring every inning," Whittemore said.
In the second inning, Smart roped an RBI triple — his third of the season; AJ Hernandez swatted an RBI double; and Pitts capped the six-run outburst with a two-run single.
The Wildcats smacked three doubles and a homer during a five-run third. Pappin's two-bagger ignited the rally, then Hernandez hit a run-scoring double and Smart smashed a two-run double to move WNC ahead 9-1. Smart scored WNC's 10th run on a double play, and Pitts finished the Wildcats' scoring with a home run.
Dylan Baker gave up only his second earned run of the season but collected his 10th victory with a one-hitter over three innings. Baker, who is being touted as a possible first-round pick in the Major League Baseball Draft in June, fanned eight and walked four.
"That's certainly eye-popping, but more difficult to duplicate is he's only given up 16 hits in 11 starts," Whittemore said.
Evan Parker and Rayne Raven held the Golden Eagles hitless over the final three innings. Raven struck out five of the six batters he retired.
Smart and Pitts each rapped two hits and knocked in three runs. Hendrix, who leads the Wildcats with a .358 batting average, was 2-4 and Hernandez went 2-3 with two runs scored and two RBI. Smart, Pappin, Hernandez and Bobby Gazzola touched home plate twice.
In the third game between the clubs, WNC broke open a tight battle by scoring four times in the fifth and sixth for the 13-2 six-inning victory.
Hendrix's three-run homer — his first of the season — highlighted the four-run fifth, and Schmidt's two-run double keyed the four-run sixth. Smart also delivered an RBI base hit, and Woolley scored on a wild pitch in the sixth.
WNC scored first when a Dillon Ness RBI single brought home Smart from third base in the first inning.
The Wildcats played a little small ball in the second to score two more runs. Lawhorn started the rally with a walk and was sacrificed to second by Pappin. Raven worked his way on base with a walk, then both runners moved up a base on a double steal. Gazzola's sacrifice fly to left field plated Lawhorn, and Woolley chased home Raven with a double, putting WNC ahead 3-0.
Eastern Utah scored two unearned runs off Pitts in the second to pull within 3-2.
The Wildcats put together a two-out rally in the third to go ahead 4-2. Pitts' single got the rally going and was followed by walks to Lawhorn and Pappin. A wild pitch by Joe Banta allowed Pitts to score, but the Golden Eagles avoided additional scoring damage when Raven lined out to third base.
A couple of walks and Smart's successful sacrifice bunt led to Hendrix's RBI groundout in the fourth, extending WNC's lead to 5-2.
Western Nevada put away Eastern Utah with four-run rallies in the fifth and sixth innings.
Pitts picked up his second win in as many decisions, pitching five innings. He allowed four hits and struck out nine. Philip Belding pitched the sixth, giving up one hit.
Woolley, Pitts and Pappin each finished with two hits. Hendrix only had one hit in five at-bats but knocked in four runs. Woolley and Schmidt each delivered two RBI, while Woolley, Pitts and Pappin crossed home plate twice.
Brandon Jackson and Anthony Consiglio combined on a three-hit shutout as WNC won the series finale 5-0.
Jackson (4-1) gave up three hits in six innings and showed command of the strike zone, walking one and striking out six. Consiglio threw three hitless frames and fanned two.
The Wildcats' 10-hit attack included doubles by Smart, Pitts, Schmidt and Pappin.
WNC again seized an early lead, scoring twice in the first inning. Schmidt's two-run double scored Smart and Hendrix.
Pitts doubled and scored on an error in the the third to put WNC in front 3-0.
The Wildcats produced single runs in the seventh and eighth innings to complete the scoring. Woolley scored in the seventh on an error by the pitcher during a bunt single by Smart. Pappin's double in the eighth plated Cole Ferguson to make the score 5-0.
Smart, Schmidt and Pappin led the Wildcats with two hits apiece, and Schmidt collected two RBI. Smart continued his late-season hitting tear, raising his average to .286.
"He did same thing last year," Whittemore said. "With every passing game he keeps improving. He has a lot of maturity as a college baseball player. He understands you have to place an emphasis on preparation, and that's what he's doing. He's been getting great results."
WNC (33-10 overall) will play host to rival Southern Nevada on April 20-21 at John L. Harvey Field. The twin bills begin at noon each day, and Whittemore and his team are focused only on the game in front of them.
"Our focus is on winning the first game. If we allow ourselves to get distracted, there is plenty of stimuli this weekend," Whittemore said. "There will be lots of family in town for our sophomore ceremony on Saturday, they swept us on Friday (earlier), these will be our final home games, but none of that is going to help us score any runs or get any outs."