It was a numbers game at Ron McNutt Field at Carson High School on Saturday, and the Western Nevada Community College Wildcats found out that one can indeed be the loneliest number in a doubleheader against Dixie State College of Utah.
After dropping the first game of the twin bill, 4-2, the Wildcats were on the receiving end of a brilliant one-hit shutout thrown by the Rebels' Chris Reap and lost the second game, 2-0, in 10 innings.
Reap (5-3) entered the game with a 3.93 earned run average, but ended up playing more like the Grim Reaper, sucking the life out of the WNCC bats as he went the distance and dropped the Wildcats two and a half games behind the Rebels in the race for first place in the Scenic West Athletic Conference.
WNCC fell to 25-15 overall and 19-9 in SWAC play with the losses, while the Rebels improved to 27-7, 21-6 in league.
While he struck out only four, Reap dealt the Wildcats losing hands until third baseman Tyson Jaquez ripped a one-out double in the bottom of the seventh to break up Reap's no-hit bid.
Reap issued his only walk of the game to right fielder Chad Walling in the bottom of the third to lose his perfect game.
"You look like a genius when you hit 'em where they're not and like a fool when you hit 'em where they are," WNCC coach D.J. Whittemore said. "He (Reap) did a nice job throwing strikes and choosing his spots. He did what a pitcher's supposed to do and got ahead (in the count)."
Dixie State coach Mike Littlewood said it's easy to underestimate Reap.
"You don't think he has anything, but you get to the sixth or seventh inning and your team doesn't have any hits," Littlewood said. "He had great command of his three pitches. He didn't do anything special. He just threw them where (WNCC's bats) weren't."
Reap and the Rebels were given a good run for their money by Wildcats starter Mason Tobin, who pitched six innings of one-hit, shutout ball before being relieved by Stephen Sauer at the start of the seventh.
Tobin struck out five, walked two and allowed his only hit - a single - to leadoff batter Braden Wells in the top of the fourth.
"It was good to see Mason on top of his game," Whittemore said. "He was throwing some nice strikes and had a good slider. His fastball was enough today. Pretty good for a four-starter, huh?"
Sauer took the loss for the Wildcats in pitching 3 1/3 innings, allowing five hits before being relieved by Ryan Iodence, who came in with runners on first and second.
After walking Sam Schanzle, Iodence gave up two-run hit to James Dever, whose fly to center just got past the outstretched glove of diving center fielder Aaron Henry.
Chad Riddle came in following that hit and got Jack Amadei to fly out to center, but Reap mowed down Jaquez and Aaron Greer before getting Pat Grennan to pop up to center to end the game.
"It's always nice to come into a good team's field and take three of four," said Littlewood, whose Rebels split their doubleheader with WNCC on Friday. "That's what you have to do to win league."
Littlewood credited the first-year WNCC program, whose spirited play has surprised many other teams. The Wildcats also ended an eight-game Dixie State winning streak with its 14-4 blowout of the Rebels on Friday.
"They've done a tremendous job," Littlewood said. "I'm not shocked. D.J. and his staff have done a great job of recruiting. These guys (WNCC) put together what you see in this league"- great pitching and putting hitting, pitching and playing defense together."
As it did during both games on Friday, WNCC found itself playing from behind in its first game on Saturday, surrendering two runs in the first inning, when designated hitter Chad Murray's double down the left-field line put the Rebels up 2-0.
A Jaquez sacrifice fly brought in Kyle Bondurant to halve the lead in the bottom of the first and Taylor Mieras' single up the middle brought home first baseman Tom Miller to tie it 2-2 in the fourth, but a two-run sixth inning by the Rebels put the game away.
Colt Adams (4-0) went the distance for Dixie State, notching seven strikeouts, while allowing both runs and spreading out five hits.
WNCC starter Josh Brink went 3 2/3 innings, striking out three while allowing two runs, four hits and three walks. Iodence took the loss, going 2 innings in relief, but left in the top of the sixth after walking Jack Amadei, hitting Tim Mott with a pitch and following a sacrifice bunt by Wells.
Dan Grubbs finished the game, giving up an RBI-single to Kyle Pratt and a sacrifice fly to Albert Jones, who brought in Mott, to round out the scoring.
"The beauty of it is it's a 56-game season," Whittemore said of the bright side. "The team with the best pitching is going to win. That's the way it's been all year. We're two and a half games behind (Dixie State). That's a lot of ground to make up in 12 games. But there's no quit in us.
"We get a bye (next weekend) and we'll get ready for the final 12 games and make a push. Which seed we get or whether we're hosting (the postseason tournament, which goes to the first-place team) is not something we've talked over. It's important to get better every game. We'll be better in a month."
WNCC will play at Colorado Northwestern Community College April 21-22. The Wildcats won all four meetings with CNCC earlier this season.