Max Karnos developed a two-seam fastball after his freshman year in high school, and it’s turned out to be his favorite pitch.
Karnos’ sinking fastball produced 13 groundball outs, and he went on to pitch a 4-hitter in Western Nevada College’s conference-opening 7-1 win over Salt Lake at John L, Harvey Field on Saturday afternoon.
The Wildcats were unable to get a sweep, however, dropping the 9-inning nightcap, 6-2. The teams conclude the four-game series with another doubleheader today starting at noon. Conor Harber and Christian Stolo will take the mound for coach D.J. Whittemore’s squad.
Karnos, who wiggled out of a first-inning jam thanks to a nice defensive play, allowed only three hits after the first inning. He struck out three and walked three in posting his second complete game of the season.
“I was disappointed that I didn’t get the shutout,” said Karnos, who yielded a run in the top of the seventh. “I was glad to get the win, though. It’s always nice when your teammates score early. It let’s me pitch my game.”
“Max has been winning his whole life,” Whittemore said. “He just throws strikes. He’s got a change-up, he works hard and expects to win.”
Karnos was referring to the Wildcats’ three-run outburst in the second off starter/loser Anthony Dixon. All three runs were unearned thanks to a costly error by shortstop Robert Grilli.
Rayne Raven reached on the aforementioned error, moved to second on a single to center by Alex Fife, to third when Spencer Dorsey was hit by a pitch and scored on Connor Klein’s infield out. Fife and Dorsey moved to second and third on Klein’s groundball up the middle, and both scored when No. 9 hitter Tony Roque ripped a two-run single to right to make it 3-0.
“It was an outside fastball,” Roque said. “The ball was up a bit and I took it the other way. Most of the team was just staying back behind it and driving the ball into the gaps. We did a great job of that today.”
Western Nevada put the game away with four runs in the bottom of the sixth, and again Roque came up with the big hit.
Raven doubled to lead off the inning, moved to third on a bunt and scored on a single by Dorsey. After Dorsey was caught stealing, Klein followed with a double and scored on a double to right by Roque. Stolo doubled home Roque to make it 6-0. Stolo scored moments later on a single by Jake Bennett.
Roque and Klein made their presence felt at the bottom of the order, going a combined 4-for-6 with four RBI and two runs scored.
“I don’t mind batting ninth,” said Roque when asked if he’d like to bat higher. “Conner and I like to make them aware of the bottom of the order.”
Salt Lake scored its only run of the game on Kade Teter’s sacrifice fly.
In the second game, WNC went ahead 2-1 with single runs in the third and sixth innings. Harber drove in the first run on a fielder’s choice and Sam Hall drove in the go-ahead run with a two-out double. Through six innings WNC starter Spencer Greer had allowed three hits and Salt Lake’s Jason Jourdan allowed three as well.
The Bruins broke loose for four runs in the top of the seventh, knocking Greer out of the game.
Taylor Snyder dropped down a bunt and beat it out. Zach Watts followed with a double, sending Snyder to third. An infield out scored a run, and Grilli made it 3-2 Salt Lake with a single to right. Grilli moved to third on a single by Colton Barkdull, which knocked out Greer. Jeremy Alderman came on and gave up a run-scoring double to Nick Urban to make it 4-2. Barkdull scored the fourth run of the inning on a wild pitch to make it 5-2.
WNC had chances in the seventh and eighth to come back, but couldn’t get the big hit. With the bases loaded and one out in the seventh, Harber lined to second and Joey Crunkilton popped out to left. With runners at first and second with two outs in the eighth, Klein popped to short to end the threat.
WNC left 11 runners stranded, seven in the final four innings. Harber, Crunkilton, Fife and Bennett were 2-for-18 with one run. Harber had both hits, both infield hits.
“We didn’t get the big hit with runners in scoring position,” Whittemore said. Whittemore refused to place any blame on his top four hitters, pointing out they had come through more often than not this year and during their WNC careers.
Whittemore was pleased with the way Greer pitched.
“That might have been the best game he’s pitched in two years,” Whittemore said. “He made a lot of good pitches.”
“They had the bunt and then the hit (double) off the end of the bat,” Greer said. “Most of the time that’s an out. This effort was definitely up there.”
N. Idaho sweeps Wildcats
On an afternoon better suited for dog sledding and ice skating, the WNC Wildcats and North Idaho Cardinals gamely played a Scenic West Athletic Conference softball game on Saturday in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
With the game-time temperature in the mid-teens and the wind chill factor in single digits, the two teams were able to squeeze in the final game of their series.
North Idaho survived a seventh-inning rally to win its fourth straight against WNC, 7-3.
“I don’t know how the girls did it. I was in so many layers, and my hands were frozen,” WNC coach Leah Wentworth said. “It was miserable. I don’t know if it would be possible to play in anything worse than that.”
WNC scored all of its runs in the seventh inning, breaking up a shutout bid by Cardinal pitchers Tori Almos and Brittany Hecker. The duo carried a 1-hitter into the final inning, but the Wildcats didn’t go away quietly, especially on their final out.
Andi Lee knocked in a run with a single and Lindsey Ashbaugh doubled in another run to pull the Wildcats within 7-3. Then, Hecker won a long duel with Katilyn Covione, nailing down the win on a fly ball to right.
Covione started in the circle for the Wildcats and bounced back from a rough outing a day earlier.
Ashbaugh reached base twice to lead off innings for the Wildcats. She had the Wildcats’ only hit off Almos in the third inning, a single to center field. The Carson High School product finished 2 for 2 with a RBI.
WNC fell to 5-10 in the SWAC and 8-16 overall. The Wildcats will look to bounce back when they host Snow College on Friday and Saturday at Edmonds Sports Complex.
Information for softball provided by Western Nevada College