LAS VEGAS - This is what nonconference baseball is all about in the early season. But it can be awfully painful.
The Western Nevada College baseball team walked off the field thinking it had let two games slip away on Saturday at Sierra Vista High. After easily beating South Mountain Community College of Phoenix 16-6 on Friday, the Wildcats dropped a doubleheader on Saturday, losing to South Mountain 2-1 in the opener and 6-4 in a nightcap that was called after seven innings due to darkness.
The Wildcats let leads slip away in both games, wasting an outstanding effort by the pitching staff, in particular Kyle Farrell and Josh Creveling.
The ending to the nightcap was a fitting - and frustrating - finish to the day. WNC coach D.J. Whittemore - who's not afraid to roll the dice and has come up a lucky seven most of the time - rolled the dice again in the seventh. With the score tied 4-4, Brian Barnett tripled with two outs.
Whittemore decided to pinch hit Cliff Shepard for Chuck Howard, wanting a left-handed hitter at the plate. Shepard, who is only available as a pinch-hitter due to a sore hamstring, struck out. Howard's replacement, Darren Bruhns then ended up making an error that cost WNC the game a day after Bruhns made a spectacular debut in which he was the hero of Friday's win.
"I think it's a fair thing to second guess," Whittemore said. "We think Shepard's one of the best hitters on the team and we have confidence in Bruhns."
After pitching three scoreless innings and striking out five, Creveling walked the leadoff hitter in the bottom of the seventh and after a sacrifice bunt, was pulled in favor of Jose Barajas.
Barajas struck out the next batter, but the ball got by Bruhns, who then overthrew Andrew Reid at first, allowing a run to score. After an intentional walk, a wild pitch gave South Mountain runners at second and third with one out. A sacrifice fly gave South Mountain a 6-4 lead.
Barajas didn't allow an earned run in his inning of work as both runs were unearned. Barajas struck out two.
Whittemore noted that WNC's inability to score after scoring four runs in the first to take a 4-0 lead was just as big of reason why his team lost.
"The game's lost by not scoring after you put up four runs in the first," he said.
In the first, Jerome Pena drew a leadoff walk and Reid followed with an RBI double. Barnett then hit a two-run double. Barnett then hustled all the way home from second on Davis Banks' groundball to shortstop when the throw pulled the first baseman off the bag.
Josh Moody, who started, pitched well, allowing an unearned run through three innings. He was the victim of bad luck in the fourth when a seeing-eye groundball that could have been a double play ended up being a hit that ignited a three-run rally, tying the score 4-4.
"I was happy with the pitching all day," Whittemore said. "I thought Moody was great. Moody's three feet from a double play and they don't score on him."
WNC was also the victim of bad luck in the top of the fourth when Barnett hit a groundball down the third base line with the bases loaded that went just foul. If the ball is fair, it lscores three runs and WNC has a 7-1 lead.
SOUTH MOUNTAIN 2, WNC 1
South Mountain rallied for two runs in the bottom of the sixth after there were two outs and nobody on, spoiling an outstanding debut by Farrell.
Farrell showed why he's considered WNC's best Major League pitching prospect by scouts as he scattered three hits over four shutout innings while striking out four and walking one.
Reid came on in the fifth and after pitching a scoreless inning, he retired the first two batters in the sixth. But a seeing-eye single, Casey Reynolds' RBI triple and Michael Delos' infield single gave South Mountain a 2-1 lead.
"Reid pitched admirably as well," Whittemore said.
WNC couldn't solve Jordan Roualdes and Daniel Romero, who combined to hold the Wildcats to four hits.
Roualdes pitched 5.1 innings and Romero got the last five outs for the win, striking out the side in the seventh. WNC scored in the first when Jerome Pena led off with a walk and Logan Parsley followed with a single.
They moved up on Barnett's fielder's choice and Pena scored on Ray's groundout. Banks also doubled and Travis Feiner and Barnett singled for WNC's other hits.