It didn't take long for the Western Nevada Community College baseball team to establish a rivalry against Community College of Southern Nevada. The rivarly pretty much began from the first pitch of WNCC's inaugural season last year.
WNCC won the very first regular season game it ever played when it beat CCSN in that season opener last year and the teams have been involved in a spirited rivalry ever since. And even though the rivalry is just two years old, there's no diminishing the fact the two teams will play their most important series, yet, this weekend.
The Wildcats will host the Coyotes in a four-game series at John L. Harvey Field as the teams will play doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday. Friday's doubleheader will begin at 1 p.m. and Saturday's doubleheader will begin at noon.
The series will go a long ways in determining the Scenic West Athletic Conference's regular season champion. CCSN is in second at 14-6 in the SWAC while WNCC is third at 13-7. College of Southern Idaho leads both teams at 15-5.
Despite WNCC's opening win over CCSN, the Coyotes have regained control. Taking away the three forfeit wins that WNCC owns over CCSN, the Coyotes have won six of the nine meetings over the last two years.
But all nine games were played in Henderson, so obviously the Wildcats are glad to finally have the Coyotes in their house. "It's nice to get the rivalry on our home turf," WNCC coach D.J. Whittemore said.
Whittemore said two factors make a rivalry. The first - geography - is obviously met with the two schools in the same state. The second is how competitive the series is.
While CCSN holds a 6-3 edge, all of the games have been competitive. CCSN took three of four from WNCC earlier this year, but all three wins for the Coyotes were by one run.
"I think we're doing a good job of being competitive," Whittemore said. Absolutely I think it's a rivalry."
WNCC is 15-0 when it scores first while CCSN is 19-2 when it scores first. "If you score, you've got a great chance to win," Whittemore said. "It's a race to get a run."
CCSN comes in smarting as Southern Idaho moved into first last weekend by sweeping four games from the Coyotes.
"It certainly makes for some intense practices," said Whittemore about how CCSN would be expected to respond. "There will be a sense of urgency. We have a sense of urgency to prove we're not the third best team in the conference."
WNCC and CCSN have the top two pitching staffs in the SWAC. The Wildcats' four starters - Cole Rohrbough, Justin Garcia, Stephen Sauer and Josh Brink - have been outstanding and the bullpen has been solid.
The Wildcats are first and the Coyotes are second in virtually every major pitching category in the SWAC, with one exception. CCSN leads in strikeouts.
WNCC's inability to make contact against the Coyotes' pitchers was a major factor in the first series. Since then, the Wildcats have done a much better job of making contact.
"I think it's a big challenge for us to prove the changes are for real," said Whittemore about cutting down the strikeouts against CCSN's tough pitching.
"We're really happy with the way our pitchers are throwing the baseball right now," Whittemore said. "I think our bullpen is continuing to get better with each week."
Whittemore also has a great deal of respect for CCSN's staff. "What makes them special, the quality of all four starters," Whittemore said. "They don't drop off."
CCSN actually has six pitchers who can be in the rotation. Among the Coyotes' most solid starters has been Ryan Iodence, who pitched for WNCC last year. Iodence has lost just twice this year - once to the Wildcats and last weekend to Southern Idaho. In addition, the Coyotes have two relief pitchers who have yet to give up an earned run.
Offensively, CCSN features the SWAC's best hitter in Chase Leavitt, who leads the conference in RBI. There's also Easton Gust, who is third in the SWAC in RBI.
For the first time, WNCC will also have to face Bryce Massanari, an all-SWAC performer from 2005. Massanari missed all of last year and the first series against WNCC with injuries.
He will also miss the first game today as he has to serve a mandatory one-game suspension after being ejected against Southern Idaho last weekend.
For WNCC, Brad Carlsen is second in the SWAC in RBI and runs scored. "Carlsen's swinging a good bat right now," Whittemore said.
Kyle Bondurant is among the SWAC's leaders in on-base percentage and leads the SWAC in walks. Among other top hitters recently have been Pat Grennan and Andrew Ferguson, Whittemore said.
"On any given day a different guy can beat you," Whittemore said. "Everybody contributes up and down the lineup."
Whittemore also obviously expects an electric atmosphere this weekend, adding he expects a standing room crowd for Saturday.