On a day when its hitting was just so-so, Western Nevada Community College relied on its pitching to sweep Colorado Northern Community College, and keep its slim hopes alive for hosting the first round of the playoffs.
In the opener, Stephen Sauer threw six innings of two-hit ball in a 5-0 win, and Jake Bottari, T.J. Wohlever, Andrew Reid and Dan Grubbs combined on a 4-hitter to lift the Wildcats to a 3-1 win.
The sweep gave the Wildcats a sweep of the four-game series, and they improved to 29-20-2 overall and 23-13 in Scenic West Athletic Conference play.
WNCC pitchers allowed six hits in the double-header, fanning 16 batters and walking just one and hitting three.
"We got great pitching," said WNCC coach D.J. Whittemore. "We shut them out twice this weekend.
"Sauer has been awesome. Unless it's (Cole) Rohrbough, I don't know if there has been anybody better this year. He had three pitches working today. It was great to see (Jake) Bottari. He's worked his tail off, but hasn't had a lot of innings pitched to show for it."
Sauer, who is headed to Arizona State if he's not drafted high enough in the June amateur draft, faced only one batter over the minimum through the first five innings.
"I felt good," said Sauer, who fanned three and hit a batter. "I was doing a real good job of locating the fastball. I was working everything off the fastball."
Of course, it didn't hurt that his teammates erupted for five runs in the second inning thanks to triples by Cliff Shepard and Brad Carlsen, doubles by Thomas Miller and Chuck Howard and singles by Kyle Bondurant and Andrew Ferguson.
"That relaxes you," Sauer said. "I go out there and throw strikes, and as long as I throw strikes and don't walk people, good things are going to happen."
As teams often do, the Wildcats managed only three baserunners the rest of the day.
"We put it on cruise control a little bit," Whittemore said. "Once you turn the switch off, it's tough to turn it back on. I told the team that good teams don't do that."
In the second game, WNCC scored all the runs it would need in the first inning off Cody Shaffer.
Bondurant walked and advanced to third on a double to deep left by Carlsen. Miller followed with a sacrifice fly to left. Ferguson walked, and Pat Grennan hit a flare off the glove of CNCC first baseman Dustin Wageman, who managed to force Ferguson at second, which allowed Carlsen to score the inning's second run.
WNCC loaded the bases in the third, but the Spartans escaped a big inning when Anthony Garcia flied out to left. Shaffer also worked out of a first-and-second situation in the fourth when he retired Carlsen on a fly to right.
Bottari eased some of the frustration in the Wildcats' dugout with his performance. He threw four innings of one-hit ball, striking out six. A single by Wageman was the only blemish on his pitching line.
"I felt good," Bottari said. "Yeah, I would have liked to go on longer, but I was getting a little tired. My breaking ball felt good, and my fastball was the best it's been all year."
Wohlever got out of a minor jam in the fifth, and Reid had a 1-2-3 sixth, which was highlighted by a diving catch by left fielder Cliff Shepard.
WNCC made it 3-0 in the sixth when Taylor Mieras singled and moved all the way to third when CNCC botched Chad Walling's sacrifice bunt. Kevin Schlange squeezed home an insurance run with a nice bunt up the first-base line. Brooks Martinez came on in relief and shut down WNCC.
Grubbs came on in the top of the seventh, and struck out the first two batters he faced. He gave up three straight singles, enabling the Spartans to break up the shutout. Grubbs fanned Cody Hollenbeck to end the game.
At least one Wildcat was already looking ahead to next weekend's season finale.
"It (the sweep) still gives us a chance to get the second spot, and maybe even first place," Carlsen said. "Something big has to happen."
The two teams above them, College of Southern Idaho and Southern Nevada Community College face off next weekend.
• Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 881-1281