The Western Nevada College baseball team surely finds itself in first place in the Scenic West Athletic Conference sooner than expected. Now it's up to the Wildcats, who control their own destiny, to make sure they stay there.
WNC swept a doubleheader at Colorado Northwestern Community College on Friday, winning the opener 10-1 and the nightcap 4-2. With the sweep along with College of Southern Nevada's sweep at home on Friday against Salt Lake Community College, the Wildcats are now in first.
The Wildcats (30-17, 24-10) are tied with CSN (24-10) for first. Salt Lake, which has lost six straight after being swept in a four-game series at WNC last week, is now 23-11.
WNC owns the tiebreaker over both schools. The No. 1 seed from the regular season will host the conference postseason tournament. The Wildcats will finish their series against CNCC with a doubleheader today while CSN will play a doubleheader against Salt Lake.
"I would expect they would be close games," said Whittemore about today's doubleheader with the Spartans.
And both games were competitive on Friday. CNCC trailed 2-1 through four innings in the opener before WNC scored eight runs in the last three innings. Kyle Starratt pitched six strong innings in the opener while Josh Moody had his longest outing of the year, going eight innings in the nightcap.
Starratt didn't have any strikeouts, but was able to pitch to his defense as he allowed five hits. "Starratt threw great," Whittemore said.
WNC also received an encouraging effort from Javy Perez, who finished the game by retiring the side in order in the seventh inning, striking out two. "That was the best he's looked all year," Whittemore said. "He really had it going."
Brian Barnett went 3-for-4 with a three-run home run and a solo shot. Travis Feiner's two-run double gave WNC a 2-0 lead in the second.
Barnett hit his solo shot in the sixth to make it 5-1 and then the Wildcats broke the game open with five runs in the seventh. Logan Parsley, who went 2-for-2, hit a two-run single and Barnett hit his three-run shot to account for the runs.
In the nightcap, Moody struck out six and walked one while allowing five hits as he threw 104 pitches. Jose Barajas picked up the save, retiring the side in order in the ninth, striking out one.
Because of Moody's effort, WNC will have Barajas, Josh Creveling and Andrew Reid available along with game three starter Kyle Farrell and likely game four starter Jordan Blanchard.
"He was pretty masterful," said Whittemore about Moody. "Moody was outstanding and allowed us to save our bullpen."
WNC took a 2-1 lead in the second on Feiner's two-run homer. The Wildcats went up 3-1 in the fourth after Feiner doubled and scored on an error. In the sixth, Kyle Gutchewsky tripled and scored on Lance Ray's RBI sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.
Feiner went 3-for-4 with two doubles and the homer, Gutchewsky went 2-for-4 and Cliff Shepard was 3-for-4. "We had good at-bats," Whittemore said. "We hit the the ball hard all day long."