It's common knowledge that felines and canines don't always get along, so it should come as no surprise that the Western Nevada Community College Wildcats and the Coyotes of the Community College of Southern Nevada went at each other Friday like, well, cats and dogs.
After dropping a hotly contested first game of the doubleheader to the Coyotes, 2-1, the Wildcats scratched back for a 9-5 win in the nightcap, but not before a slugfest in the top of the seventh inning at John L. Harvey Field.
With the second-game victory, the Wildcats (20-15-1 overall) moved to 14-8 in the Scenic West Athletic Conference and remained one game behind the Coyotes (25-12 overall), who entered the twinbill in second place behind the College of Southern Idaho and are now 15-7 in the SWAC.
Behind the pitching of starter Justin Garcia (5-3) and a 12-hit attack, WNCC took a 9-0 lead into the top of the seventh inning of game two. But CCSN sent 10 batters to the plate and got four of its seven hits off Garcia, cutting the lead to 9-2 with the bases loaded before Wildcats reliever Wes Osmer entered the game.
Osmer lasted 1/3 of an inning, allowing an RBI-walk to Coyotes center fielder Chase Leavitt, an RBI-groundout to shortstop Easton Gust and throwing a wild pitch, which scored left fielder Jeff Gonzales.
Osmer also walked Bryce Massanari before Jeremy Joustra relieved him. Joustra threw two pitches to Tylien Manumaleuna before WNCC catcher Chuck Howard threw out Massanari, who was attempting to steal second, to end the game.
Although Garcia was charged with five runs in 6 1/3 innings, he struck out four and had given up only three hits in the previous six scoreless innings.
"He's he consummate professional," WNCC coach D.J. Whittemore said of Garcia. "You know exactly what you're getting every time out. He's one of those pitchers that throws strikes. If a team has a weakness, he can exploit it. One of the blessings I've had in this program is that Justin Garcia decided to come here."
Whittemore said he wasn't surprised by CCSN's seventh-inning rally.
"They had actually been hitting the ball hard all day, but they were (hit) at us," Whittemore said. "In the seventh, they hit them where we weren't standing. I think Justin and Osmer did a nice job. I think Jeremy Joustra did a nice job. We talk about playing from the first pitch to the last pitch the same. I felt that we did that."
Drew Leary (4-2) took the loss for the Coyotes, giving up four runs and five hits in three-plus innings.
WNCC shortstop Kevin Schlange (2-for-3, 1 RBI, 1 run scored) put the Wildcats up, 1-0, in the second with an RBI-single off Leary. After Thomas Miller doubled and Logan Parsley singled to open the fourth, Brad Carlsen's RBI-single made it 2-0 and chased out Leary, with runners on first and third.
Andrew Reid (2-for-3, 2 RBI, 1 run) touched up former Wildcat Ryan Iodence with a two-run bloop single, Howard had an RBI-double and Kyle Bondurant added an RBI-single to finish off the five-run inning and give the Wildcats a 6-0 lead.
Iodence gave up three runs and four hits in two innings.
Miller drilled a solo 400-foot home run to center for a 7-0 advantage in the fifth. It was Miller's fourth home run of the year, equaling his total for last season, and knocked in his 12th RBI on the season. Miller finished 2-for-4 after going 0-for-3 in the first game.
"I think he's a better player than a year ago," Whittemore said of Miller, who was the unquestionable leader of last year's Wildcats. "He's better in his approach, more confident and hitting the ball the other way. He's somebody who has worked hard to get better, whether it's hitting early or on Sundays."
Freshman Reid, who singled in his only at bat in the first game, said Miller is still the team's leader this year.
"Miller's the talker. He definitely gets people going," said the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Reid, of Keizer, Ore. "He was the first guy to greet me when I got in camp."
Miller was equally complimentary of Reid. "Reid's a gamer, man. It's fun watching him hit and watching him play. He's a good guy and a helluva hitter."
The Wildcats earned their final two runs in the sixth, when pinch hitter Chad Walling scored on a Kris Cichoski wild pitch and Schlange scored on Bondurant's grounder to shortstop.
"That's a really good baseball team over in that dugout," Miller said of the Coyotes. "They're just as talented as we are. We're happy to get the win."
Cichoski gave up two runs and three hits in one inning of work.
CCSN starter Jon Berger pitched six strong innings (allowing one run, three hits and one walk while striking out two) for the win in the opener before giving way to closer Tyler Lavigne, who picked up the save with one perfect inning of work for the Coyotes.
WNCC first-game starter Cole Rohrbough (5-2) pitched a five-hit complete game for the Wildcats, striking out five.
The Coyotes went up, 1-0, on Justin Herbert's RBI-single in the fifth inning of the 88-minute game.
Reid, who pinch hit for Schlange in the sixth inning, reached on a single. Walling came in as a pinch runner for Reid and promptly stole second and third. He reached home on a passed ball.
Braeden Schlehuber hit a solo homer in the seventh to give CCSN the 2-1 lead and ultimately the game.
"The bottom line it was a good heavyweight fight between the top-ranked contender and the champion," Whittemore said of the doubleheader. "Their team has been on top; we're struggling to prove we belong. Luckily, we have two more games tomorrow."
Today's twinbill begins at noon at John L. Harvey Field.
Notes: Former University of Nevada quarterback Jeff Rowe got his first up-close look at Wildcat baseball Friday. He was in attendance with his girlfriend, who was there to watch her brother, CCSN center fielder Jeff Gonzales.
Rowe, a 2002 McQueen graduate, guided the Wolf Pack to its first-ever Western Athletic Conference regular-season title in 2005 and a victory over Central Florida in the Hawai'i Bowl.
The Pack reached its second consecutive bowl game in 2006, losing, 21-20, to Miami (Fla.) in the MPC Computers Bowl, on Dec. 31, in Boise, Idaho.
Rowe, who took part in February's NFL Combine, in Indianapolis, Ind., said he has added 10 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame since the season ended and will travel next week to Philadelphia to visit the Eagles.
Rowe said his main focus heading into the combine was to work on his drop and get back under center after playing in coach Chris Ault's "pistol" offense. He also concentrated on his 40-yard dash times as well as the interview process.
"The weigh-in was awkward," Rowe said of his strangest time in the combine. "You stand in line, they tell you to strip down and you weigh in on a stage in front of about 300 people in your shorts."
Asked if he had any idea of where he might be headed, Rowe shook his head.
"I've heard anywhere from the late first round to late in the second round to early in the second round," Rowe said. "I've heard everything, covering all ends of the spectrum."
Rowe said he hasn't had a lot of down time lately.
"I've been working out the last two months," Rowe said. "After my visit to Philly I'm going to take a little bit of down time and wait for my cell phone to ring."