For whatever reason, Western Nevada College seems to have arch-rival College of Southern Nevada's number this season in baseball.
WNC won three of four against CSN to open the season, and then followed that up Friday with a double-header sweep, 3-1 and 1-0, at John L. Harvey Field to take over sole possession of second place in the Scenic West Athletics Conference.
The Wildcats are 15-7 in conference play, while the Coyotes dropped to 14-8, The teams will play a double-header today starting at noon. WNC has already clinched the season series between the teams which is key if the teams tie at the end of the season.
"It's big," said outfielder Jerome Pena, who made big plays with his bat and arm. "We love beating these guys."
WNC coach D.J. Whittemore did admit that winning the double-header series was good, but he was looking at the big picture.
"It's very early, but we are one game ahead in the standings," he said. "It's not about winning the season series, it's about getting better everyday. They (CSN) are getting better. We just got a few more hits (to fall in) than they did.
"We got great starting pitching today (from Kyle Starratt and Josh Moody). That's as good as we've had here."
In the opener, Starratt allowed just two hits over 5 2/3 innings, striking out two and walking one batter. In the nightcap, Moody threw 5-plus innings before retiring with a groin injury. He fanned two and walked two. Jose Barajas picked up saves in both games, allowing only three hits in four innings.
Starratt faced just the minimum 15 batters and didn't allow a hit through five innings. He hit a batter and walked another. One was wiped out on a steal and the other was wiped out on a double play.
His teammates finally rewarded his effort with two runs in the fifth.
Kyle Gutchewsky reached on an error to start the fifth and moved to third on Lance Ray's one-out double to left. Pena followed by drilling a fastball to left, scoring both runners for a 2-0 lead. Brian Barnett walked, but Chuck Howard hit into an inning-ending double play.
Starratt lost his no-hitter with one out in the sixth when Robbie Garvey singled to center. Jeff Gonzales followed with a one-hopper off Starratt's glove to put runners at first and second. Both runners moved up on an infield out and Kyle Bostick walked to load the bases.
Barajas came on to face Braden Schlehuber and wild-pitched home a run before getting the final out of the inning.
WNC added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth on Gutchewsky's double.
"My fastball and change were working well," Starratt said. "I threw a lot of them (change-ups) on the first pitch. It doesn't matter what pitch, it's just getting ahead. It makes things easier. Jose came in and did a good job."
Zeroes littered the board for the first five innings in the second game, as Moody was matched pitch-for-pitch by Taylor Cole.
CSN threatened with two outs in the fifth when Gonzales singled to left. Cody Fierro, who played for Nevada last season, tried to score from second but was gunned down by Pena.
"I know I have a great arm," Pena said. "I like it when they challenge me like that."
"He has a great arm," Whittemore said. "He normally plays right, but we moved him to left because of the wind. Coaches assume left fielders not as good a arm as a right fielder because you usually put your weakest arm in left."
Moody went off in favor of Barajas with a 2-0 count on Bostick, who hit into a double play despite the fact the Coyotes had a hit-and-run on. Barajas hit Schlehuber, but caught Brandon Trodick looking at a called third strike.
The Wildcats scored the game's lone run in the sixth when Carson's Logan Parsley hit a two-out double to left-center field and scored on Ray's single.
Barajas worked out of a jam in the eighth when he got Bostick to hit into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. Trodick doubled with one in the ninth, but Barajas struck out Tyson Melhoff looking for the second out. Joel Reese popped out to first to end the game.
"I don't pitch in back-to-back games often," Barajas said. "I felt strong. My cutter was working real well."
• Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 881-1281