Stemming rallies before they spiral out of control has been the Western Nevada College softball team's Achilles' heel a month into the 2013 season. But the Wildcats rectified that shortcoming on Saturday by turning back Colorado Northwestern College twice, 4-2 and 10-8, in a Scenic West Conference twin bill at Edmonds Sports Complex.
"We've been talking about a lot of the losses earlier this year have all resulted in a lot of runs scoring with two outs," said WNC coach Leah Wentworth. "We really talked to them last night and reiterated today about just bearing down when there are two outs and getting that final out and selling out for it."
It was the Wildcats' first conference series victory as they raised their SWAC record to 3-9 and 6-19 overall.
"We closed the door because we knew we needed to win these," said Reed High grad Andrea Lee, who had a big offensive output in the second game victory. "We came out here with a purpose."
WNC sophomore pitcher Alexia Alley made her first start of the season. A fractured finger sidelined her for three weeks, but she was in control throughout in tossing a three-hitter in her complete game win in game one.
"It was important to really bear down today, especially because I've been out for a little bit," Alley said.
Alley retired the first two hitters in the seventh, but the Spartans were a tough final out. A hit batter, walk and single to center by Amanda Cook loaded the bases. Next, Taylor Dumas' groundball glanced off Alley's glove, allowing pinch-runner Alex Flygare to score, cutting WNC's lead to 4-2.
But WNC third baseman Heather Septon came up with a defensive gem to get Alley and the Wildcats into the win column. She made a diving grab of Megan Tubbs' sharp grounder headed between third and short. Septon quickly rose to her feet and threw out Tubbs by several feet to close out the win.
"That was awesome," Alley said. "We really wanted to win, and I knew my team had my back."
WNC fell behind 1-0 in the third inning as the Spartans scored an unearned run with two outs. Whitney Titus scored from second base when first baseman Alisha Nielsen couldn't come up with Alley's throw on Dumas comeback to the mound.
The Wildcats evened the score at 1 in the fourth. Sydney Darby, a former Spanish Springs star, led off with a double to right and was bunted over to third by Lee. Darby beat a relay throw home to score on Alley's sacrifice fly to right field.
WNC used its speed at the top of the order to take a 2-1 lead in the fifth. Jennifer Quam of North Valleys High reached on an infield hit to short and stole second base. She came home when Brandi Percival threw past first baseman Emily Phillips on speedy Madison Gonzalez's grounder.
The Spartans threatened to tie the score in the sixth when Shalese Connary doubled over Lee's head in right with two outs. But Alley coaxed a groundout to Septon at third.
Darby's eighth homer of the season put WNC ahead 3-1 in the sixth. The Wildcats strung together three more hits to take a 4-1 edge into the final inning. Base hits by Alley and Nielsen set up Septon's two-out run-scoring single to shallow left field.
Darby was 2 for 3 with two runs scored and an RBI, Alley was 1 for 2 with an RBI and a run scored and Quam, Nielsen Septon and Jennifer Rechel each delivered a hit.
In the second game, the Wildcats put out another final-inning rally by the Spartans to complete the doubleheader sweep.
Colorado Northwestern's first four hitters reached base in the seventh to make the score 10-7. Alley, pitching in relief of starter Ali Marie Lostra, struck out Lindsey Spendlow for the first out after falling behind 3-1 in the count. Gonzalez recorded the second out with a force at second base, but a run scored to make trim WNC's lead to 10-8. Connary, who homered in the first inning, looked at a third strike from Alley to end the game with baserunners on first and third.
In the fourth inning, the Spartans loaded the bases and scored a run to tie the score at 2 before an out was recorded. But Lostra and the defense behind her buckled down to keep the score tied.
The momentum quickly shifted to the Wildcats as they scored five times - four after two were out - in their half of the fourth. Septon's sacrifice fly scored Alley to put the Wildcats on top 3-2. Lee's second double, which found the gap in right-center field - chased home Nielsen to trigger the two-out rally. Rechel's single to left put runners on the corners. A dropped fly ball in left enabled Lee to score, building WNC's lead to 5-2. Both Rechel and Quam scored when Anderson dropped a potential third out at first base.
In the fifth, Lee drove in her third run of the game with an infield single.
The Wildcats tacked on two key insurance runs in the sixth. Darby's one-out triple scored Gonzalez, and Darby dashed home on a third-strike passed ball with Lostra batting.
In the second game, Lee finished 3-for-3 with a run scored and three RBI. Also, Darby stroked a triple and Lostra and Quam scored two runs.
SCENIC WEST BASEBALL
WNC drops two games
Baseball aficionados say the hardest out to get is the last one. It is a sentiment that will stay with the Western Nevada baseball team this week.
"We were 3 outs away from going 4-0," coach DJ Whittemore said after WNC lost two games via walkoff Saturday in Henderson.
WNC lost 11-9 to College of Southern Idaho when the Golden Eagles hit a 3-run homer off Tyler Bennett who took the loss.
WNC was led by Conor Harber who went 3-for-5 with a double.
In the other game, College of Southern Nevada knocked off its rival with a 4-3 in the bottom of the 11th.
"We battled hard all weekend," Whittemore said. "We were just a pitch, a play or a hit short."
Spencer Greer took the loss. Mike Umscheid went 2-for-4.
WNC falls to 1-3 in conference and finds itself three games behind 4-0 CSN.
The Wildcats host Salt Lake Community College in a four-game series starting Friday.
"We have some things to improve on," Whittemore said. "Still, I think we are going to a be a force."