Western Nevada College freshman outfielder Jake Bennett couldn’t have dreamed for a better situation to step to the plate in the ninth inning on Saturday afternoon.
With the Wildcats trailing rival College of Southern Nevada 3-2 and Joey Crunkilton on first base with one out, Bennett launched the first pitch from Josh Nuernberg over the right-field fence for a dramatic 4-3 comeback victory for WNC at John L. Harvey Field.
Paired with the Wildcats’ 5-1 opening-game win behind the complete-game pitching effort of Rayne Raven, the Wildcats (18-8) moved within one game of first-place Salt Lake in the Scenic West Athletic Conference standings with six games to go.
“I knew a first-pitch fastball was coming. He likes to rely on his fastball,” Bennett said. “He left it belt high; it’s the pitch you want right there, so it was good to capitalize on it. I was just trying to hit a line drive, and I got a hold of it.”
For seven innings, the Wildcats were flailing at the off-speed deliveries of D.J. Myers. The 6-foot-5 right-hander struck out nine and shut out the Wildcats on five hits through seven innings.
CSN decided to go to its bullpen in the eighth inning, and the Wildcat offense surfaced. With one out, Sam Hall walked on four pitches. Alex Fife’s hit up the middle put runners on first and second. Raven continued the rally with a RBI double into the right-field corner, slicing CSN’s lead to 3-1. Connor Klein deposited the first pitch from reliever Wes Grass into right field, plating Fife.
However, Nuernberg stemmed the rally by striking out Austin Andrews and Spenser Dorsey, the latter with Raven on third base and Klein on second.
Nuernberg picked up where he left off in the ninth, inducing Conor Harber to hit into a groundout. But he walked Crunkilton to bring the potential winning run to the plate.
With the SWAC regular-season champion serving as the host for the Region 18 tournament in two weeks, the Wildcats are focused on the opportunity presented to them after Salt Lake dropped three of four games to College of Southern Idaho at home.
WNC coach D.J. Whittemore said his bullpen, which tossed 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, kept his team within striking range. Connor Zwetsch threw two innings of two-hit relief, and Jeremy Alderman fanned two of the four hitters he retired and earned his second victory in four decisions.
Raven handcuffed the Coyotes on three hits to lead the Wildcats in the opening game. He fanned five and walked one in seven innings.
The Wildcats only pushed two balls out of the infield in the fourth but still produced four runs. The rally started innocently enough with Fife blooping a ball over the head of pitcher Blair Goldsack’s head for an infield single. Bennett’s single to right field moved Fife to third base.
Whittemore, realizing that runs were at a premium in the pitcher’s duel, had his next two hitters bunt, and it paid off. Raven’s deadened a bunt along the first-base line, pushing Fife across the plate for the game’s first run.
Just as Raven did, Andrews bunted his way on base, filling the bags. Goldsack then made a big mistake as his pickoff throw sailed over the third baseman’s head, allowing Bennett and Raven to score the Wildcats’ second and third runs, respectively. Before the inning was over, Andrews came across the plate with an unearned run, putting WNC ahead, 4-0.
Fife added an insurance run with a five-inning homer to right. It was the sophomore’s second of the season.
Today’s twin bill will begin at 11 a.m. Whittemore will honor his sophomore players between games.
Douglas 1-5, Spanish Springs 3-2
MINDEN — Kyle Johnson pitched a complete game five-hitter Saturday to beat Spanish Springs,as Douglas salvaged a split of its doubleheader at Tiger Field.
Spanish Springs (8-9 overall, 6-8 league) scored twice in the sixth inning to break a 1-1 tie en route to a victory in the opener.
In game two, Douglas (17-8 overall, 11-5 league) scored four runs in the second inning to take a lead it never relinquished. Dalton Grisell doubled and scored when Zach Davies singled and Kaleb Foster hit a two-run double to highlight the Tigers’ big second inning.
Johnson, who pitched a complete game 4-3 win at home against Bishop Manogue on Tuesday, worked out of a bases loaded jam in the fourth inning when he retired the side on a strikeout and groundout. The senior right-hander had eight strikeouts and one walk.
Spanish Springs 5-3, Douglas 3-2
MINDEN — Megan Archer hit a two-run home run over the center field fence in the top of the seventh inning Saturday afternoon to lift Spanish Springs past Douglas to cap off a doubleheader sweep at Douglas.
Spanish Springs scored four runs in the second inning and then held on to win the opener.
Makayla Shaver hit 2-for-3 with two RBI, including a run-scoring double in the second inning to lead Douglas offensively in the opener. The Tigers collected five hits in the first game.
Shaver also contributed an RBI single in the sixth inning to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead in the second game. Kali Sargent doubled and scored on Kelly Sonnemann’s single to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead in the second inning.
Douglas is now 15-9-2 overall, 11-5 league. Spanish Springs improved to 21-4-1 overall, 15-1 in league.
Carson drops 2 vs. Huskies
Reno High’s softball team used quick starts en route to a doubleheader sweep of Carson Saturday.
Reno tallied nine in the first en route to an 18-5 victory in the opener. In the nightcap, Reno took an early 6-1 lead and went on to an 8-3 win.
Carson, which hosts Manogue Tuesday at 3:45 p.m., drops to 7-9 in league play.
Reno took a 10-0 lead in the opener before Carson pushed across four runs on two errors, singles by Bailey Allen and Jen Purcell, and a two-run double by Malia Tiffer. Reno extended the lead to 13-4, and Carson scored its final run of the opener in the bottom of the inning on doubles by Gabby Winder and Aubrey Northrup.
Seven errors by the Senators led to 12 unearned runs in the opener. Purcell, who gave up eight unearned runs in the first, was tagged with the loss.
Allen led Carson with two hits.
In the second game, Reno scored four in the first and Carson answered with one on Purcell’s infield out. Reno scored two in the second and two more in the fifth to make it 8-1.
Michelle Perry made it 8-3 with a double in the sixth and then came around to score on an error.
Perry led CHS with two hits, while Purcell, Becka Breuer and Tiffer added a hit apiece.
Dayton, Fallon split
FALLON — Dayton scored three times in the first to knock off Fallon, 3-2, and earn a split of Saturday’s 1A doubleheader. The Greenwave won the other game, 10-0.
Makayla Shadle allowed two unearned runs and fanned 12 in the win. She also drove in two of the three runs in the first inning. Shalia Powell accounted for the other RBI. The duo accounted for the three DHS hits.
In the 10-0 loss, Mallory Dickenson, Kalee Alexander and Shadle accounted for the hits. Fallon scored in every inning but the first.
Snow stops WNC
EPHRAIM, Utah — For the second straight game, Western Nevada College scored four times in the first inning, but the early offense wasn’t enough.
Snow scored seven runs in the third inning to rally for a 9-6 Scenic West Athletic Conference softball victory on Saturday.
Wildcat leadoff hitter Madi Gonzalez led the offense with two hits, three walks and a RBI. Cara McCarthy was 2 for 3 with a run driven in, and Heather Septon went 1 for 2 with three walks and a RBI.
WNC capitalized on five first-inning walks against Snow starting pitcher Ashley Kay. Taylor Allman, however, relieved Kay in the opening frame and held the Wildcats to two runs over the remaining innings.
Carson boys, girls win twice
Carson rolled to easy wins over Damonte and Wooster Friday at the Carson Aquatic Center.
The Carson boys beat Damonte 194-8 and Wooster 184-11. The girls beat DR 172-104 and Wooster 175-110.
Eli Everest led the girls with wins in the 200 free (2:07.15) and the 500 free (5:30.50). Christy Krahn won the 100 breast (1:19.01).
Dagen Kipling won the 200 IM (2:10.96) and the 500 free (5:06.46). Tallon Rauch won the 50 free (23.61). Dylan Popoff won the 200 free (2:08.51), Casey Garrett won the 100 fly (59.50), Josh Breen won the 100 breast (1:19.09), Peter Grarrett won the 100 free (54.07) and Kyle McDonald won the 100 back (1:25.66).