When WNC baseball coach D.J. Whittemore pinch-hit Joey Crunkilton in the bottom of the eighth inning for Spencer Dorsey, who had two homers in three at-bats, it caught people off guard.
Crunkilton made Whittemore look like a genius when he doubled home Mike Umscheid with the go-ahead run and scored himself on an ensuing throwing error to spark Western Nevada to a 10-8 come-from-behind win over College of Southern Idaho in the second game of Friday’s Scenic West Athletic Conference doubleheader at John L. Harvey Field.
The win gave WNC a sweep (5-3 win in the opener) and boosted the Wildcats’ record to 21-13 in league and 36-18 overall. The teams square off again in a doubleheader today starting at noon. The Wildcats can finish no higher than second, and will meet Salt Lake in the opening round of the league tournament Wednesday in Henderson.
The Golden Eagles got two-out homer in the top of the seventh by A.J. Van Meetren to take an 8-6 lead, but the Wildcats fought back with two in the bottom of the inning thanks to an error, a run-scoring triple by Cole Ferguson and a game-tying single by A.J. Hernandez which set the stage for the wild eighth inning.
With Isaac Anderson on the mound, Umscheid hit an infield single. Dorsey, who had two solo homers, walked to the plate but was waved back by Whittemore. Up stepped Crunkilton, who was hitless in the opener. Crunkilton hit a flyball to deep left-centerfield which dropped between CSI’s Jared Godman and Preston Young. Umscheid easily beat the wide relay throw home. Crunkilton never stopped running, and was between second and third when catcher Kholeton Sanchez threw wildly to third. Crunkilton easily scored to make it 10-8. Christian Stolo easily set down the Golden Eagles in the ninth to save the win for Tyler Bennett.
“I didn’t understand at first,” Crunkilton said. “They told me I was hitting that inning. I thought it was going to be for (Donald) Glover. When I first hit it, I thought it would be down, I saw it carry, and then I wasn’t sure if it would drop. He put me in and I did what I could.”
Whittemore said it wasn’t that difficult of a decision.
“We rarely make moves based on how somebody is doing in a game,” Whittemore said. “It’s based on pre-determined match-ups. They had a righty throwing and I wanted to go with a left-hander. Other than egos, it was a pretty easy play. You’re dealing with 18-to-20 year-olds, and you wonder how it will affect them.”
It wrapped up a wild comeback for WNC which scored nine of its 10 runs in its final four at-bats.
“Yeah, I was worried a little bit when we were down 6-1 because we didn’t have momentum,” said Ferguson, who went 2-for-4 and drove in five runs.
Ferguson was the main reason why the Wildcats rallied from a 6-1 deficit.
After Kyle Olason struck out the first two batters of the fifth inning, Stolo reached on an error. Conor Harber followed with a single and Connor Klein walked to load the bases. Ferguson slammed the first pitch he saw from Olason over the fence in left-centerfield for a grandslam which trimmed the lead to 6-5.
“It felt good (coming off the bat),” Ferguson said. “I haven’t felt like that all year.”
CSI extended the lead to 7-5 when Tanner Morache’s infield single scored Patrick Green, who had walked with two outs.
WNC made it 7-6 game in the bottom of the sixth when Dorsey slugged his second round-tripper of the game/season.
That set the stage for Van Meetren’s homer off Spencer Greer in the top of the seventh.
The win went to Bennett, who pitched a hitless eighth.
“Tyler did a good job,” Whittemore said. “He’ll be ready for tomorrow (Saturday).”
The opener was the polar opposite. WNC led 4-1 after two, and then had to hold off a late rally by CSI in the ninth.
Stolo led off the first with a single and moved to second when Harber walked. Klein followed with a double to score Stolo and send Harber to third. Ferguson’s infield roller to second scored Harber to make it 2-0, and Hernandez capped the inning with a run-scoring double. The Wildcats made it 4-0 when Umscheid singled and scored on Harber’s infield out.
CSI nicked WNC starter Cody Hamlin for a run in the third to make it 4-1, and the score stayed that way until the bottom of the sixth when Umscheid, who went 3-for-3 in the opener, hit a solo homer to right to make it 5-1.
“Before this game things hadn’t gone real well at the plate,” Umscheid said. “It was nice to get three hits. This weekend means a lot to the guys (sophomores) because it will be the last time we play here (ever).”
Hamlin departed after the sixth in favor of Stolo, who gave up two hits and three runs before finally shutting the door.
“I thought I threw pretty well,” Hamlin said. “I didn’t have the kind of velocity I’m used to having. I got the ball up a little early even before they scored the run off me. It was because of my arm slot. I was coming up a little bit.”
“He threw a lot of strikes,” Whittemore said. “His slider was working well. CSI is an aggressive hitting team, and Cody likes to challenge people when he’s out there.”