Wildcats hoping to continue success at home

Wildcats hoping to continue success at home vs. CSI

By Charles Whisnand

Appeal Sports Editor

What happened to the Western Nevada College baseball team to begin Scenic West Athletic Conference play could be diagnosed as post-College of Southern Nevada letdown syndrome. If there is such a thing.

WNC began SWAC play by winning three of four from CSN, but then went on to lose six of its next eight games to College of Southern Idaho and Salt Lake Community College. The Wildcats again are coming off a series in which they won three of four from the Coyotes and now look to avoid a similar fate with upcoming home series with CSI and Salt Lake.

The Wildcats begin that stretch with a four-game series this weekend against CSI at John L. Harvey Field. The two teams will play doubleheaders today and Saturday, both beginning at noon.

The next eight games will determine WNC's chances in the race for the SWAC regular season title. The Wildcats (22-15 overall, 16-8 in conference) are in second and trail Salt Lake by three games (19-5). CSN is 15-9 and CSI is 13-11.

"In order to answer that question I'd have to believe there was such a thing," said WNC coach D.J. Whittemore about a possible letdown after the first CSN series. "Southern Idaho's a much better team than we gave them credit for being. We talked about learning from the first time through."

Whittemore also noted that CSI has been a better team at home - where it's 10-4 - than on the road.

"We're in the same boat," Whittemore said. "We play better ball at home than we do on the road. Hopefully that will make a difference."

Whittemore also noted that several players were suspended for the first two games of the CSI series earlier in the year. And one of his top pitchers, Jose Barajas, was unavailable for the entire series as he was serving an academic-related suspension. "We had a lot of distractions," Whittemore said.

That was also the series when WNC discovered Jordan Blanchard, who has blossomed since then. So this time the Wildcats have their pitching staff intact with a starting rotation of Kyle Starratt, Josh Moody, Kyle Farrell and Blanchard, with Barajas coming out of the bullpen.

Whittemore again expects Barajas to have to pitch in the first three games of this series, something Barajas did last weekend when he pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings in picking up a save and a win.

"I think we have a better understanding of our pitching staff," Whittemore said.

Plus, the Wildcats now have Andrew Reid available as a hitter as well as a pitcher this weekend. With an injury to his non-pitching hand, Reid had been just available to pitch.

Reid has five saves this season. "He's going to get some at bats this weekend," Whittemore said.

Whittemore noted that CSI is the only SWAC team WNC doesn't have a winning record against. The overall series now stands tied at 11-11.

"I think our rivalry with Southern Idaho has been every bit as good as Southern Nevada," Whittemore said.

Whittemore also said there will be no lack "of intensity or enthusiasm on our behalf" this weekend.

Series notes: CSI's Victor Spencer is second in the conference in hitting at .344. WNC has three hitters in the SWAC's top 10 in Jerome Pena (.320), Brian Barnett (.319) and Travis Feiner (.318)... CSI has two of the conference's top pitchers in right-hander Justin Smith and left-hander Jason Oatman... Barajas is 5-1 and leads the SWAC with a 0.34 earned run average.


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