Diminutive Baker on a roll for WNC
March 10, 2013
Tyler Baker entered Saturday’s doubleheader with just seven hits and a .156 batting average.
When the smoke cleared, Baker had raised his average to a respectable .254 after going 6-for-6 in leading Western Nevada College past Colorado Northwestern, 16-3 and 13-3, in a Scenic West Athletic Conference doubleheader at John L. Harvey Field.
Both games were stopped after five innings because of the 10-run rule.
The sweep boosted WNC’s record to 4-6 in conference and 16-10 overall. The teams square off today in another doubleheader starting at noon with Christian Stolo and Luke Eubank starting on the mound for the Wildcats.
The 5-foot-9 Baker, who prepped at powerhouse Bishop Gorman, also scored six runs and drove
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four runs with two homers and a game-ending single in the second game. He is 8-for-9 in his last three games. He hit only one homer in his entire prep career.
“Holy cow, that was incredible,” WNC coach D.J. Whittemore said after the sweep. “I can’t remember anybody ever having two better games than that in one day in our program.”
“I’m just being aggressive at the plate, hunting my pitch,” Baker said. “I’m hitting early in the count, and I’m getting my pitch and hitting it.”
Baker started to show signs of life last week when he doubled twice against Salt Lake. That effort and his work in practice earned him the start.
“He’s been working hard all year,” WNC hitting coach Aaron Demosthenes said. “He was swinging the bat well this week. He felt he’d been a bit unlucky a little bit.”
Despite his slow start, Baker didn’t appear to be down.
“It’s just the game of baseball,” Baker sad. “It’s a game of failure, so you have to get through it.”
No doubt Colorado Northwestern probably wishes Baker had waited a little longer to get through it.
Baker and Co. wasted little time in flexing its muscle offensively.
In the first inning, WNC scored seven runs, and the big blow was a two-run homer by Baker with two outs. Conor Harber, Donald Glover and Alex Fife also delivered run-scoring hits. The seven-run outburst tied a season high.
Glover, who went 3-for-4 with two RBIs, drilled a run-scoring single in the second to make it 8-0. Baker led off the third with his second HR of the game, a shot that easily cleared the fence in right to make it 9-0.
The Wildcats added two more runs after Baker’s blast to make it 11-0 on doubles by Harber and Mike Umscheid plus a walk, passed ball and wild pitch.
Cody Hamlin, who worked three scoreless innings, gave way to Brock Pellow, who gave up three runs in the fourth. The big blow was a two-run single by Gavin Brady.
The Wildcats exploded for five runs in the fourth to make it 16-3. The Wildcats batted around for the second time in four innings, and the big blow was a grandslam by Stolo in just his third at-bat of the season. He had walked and hit a sacrifice fly earlier in the year.
“Our approach this week was to get our pitch, and I was waiting for my pitch,” said Stolo, who homered on a full-count pitch. “I fouled off the 3-1 pitch down the right field line, and then he threw me an inside fastball, so I went with it.”
It should have actually gone down only as a single, because Jack Hall, the runner at first was going back to first to tag up and Stolo actually passed him, but the umpire didn’t make the call, according to Whittemore.
WNC finished with a season-best 18 hits in the opening game.
The second game was more competitive – for a while.
WNC scored one in the first on an Umscheid single, but Colorado Northwestern bounced back with two in the third off Phil Belding thanks to an error by Umscheid, a double by Jake Morgan, two hit batters and a sacrifice fly by Michael McGovern.
Western Nevada went ahead for good with four runs in the third to take a 5-2 lead. Baker drove in the first run with a triple, while Matt Becker added a run-scoring fielder’s choice. Harber and Connor Klein added run-scoring hits.
Belding, who gave up seven hits and hit two batters in four innings allowed an other run in the third which cut WNC’s deficit to 5-3.
“They have Belding’s number I guess,” Whittemore said. “They beat him last year out of the bullpen. I guess everybody has an off day, and this was his first of the season.”
Baker walked and came around to score on a bases-loaded walk to make it 5-4.
That set the stage for the seventh when the Wildcats scored seven runs on six hits to close the game out. Cole Ferguson had a three-run double and Baker ended it, which was appropriate, with a single.
Baker went 3-for-3 in the second game, while Harber went 4-for-4. Matt Becker and Colby Rice each added two hits.
NOTES: The win gave WNC its 58th win in 61 attempts over Colorado Northwestern … WNC finished with 32 hits in the doubleheader … Belding is now 4-0 on the season … After today’s doubleheader, WNC faces Mt. Hood CC next weekend in a four-game home series.