Coyotes' rally eliminates Wildcats
By Charles Whisnand
Appeal Sports Editor
HENDERSON - For the Western Nevada College Wildcats, it must be hard to have perspective at a time like this - to look at what this team accomplished over an entire season and even in the Region 18 Tournament.
While none of that can be taken away, it also can't be denied that what happened on Saturday was the worst pill imaginable to swallow for the Wildcats.
WNC was within one strike of putting away College of Southern Nevada before the Coyotes rallied for four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 6-5 victory Saturday at CSN. The Coyotes won the Region 18 title and advanced to next week's district tournament in Arizona for the right to play in the JUCO World Series.
Even after the painful defeat, WNC coach D.J. Whittemore was able to keep everything in perspective.
"I'm just so proud and grateful of these guys on our team," Whittemore said. "A great season. A great tournament. A great comeback. Great character. I just feel really lucky to be associated with these guys."
Whittemore was referring to the season in which WNC went 38-20 and the tournament in which the Wildcats were able to win three games after dropping their first one to reach the championship round.
Kyle Starratt gave WNC a valiant effort on one day's rest and Jose Barajas appeared to be in control even well into the bottom of the ninth.
Starratt allowed one earned run over 6 1/3 innings, but was pulled after walking Easton Gust and allowing a single to Joel Reese. Barajas came on and was dominant for the most part, but also struggled with his control.
He struck out six in his 2 1/3 innings of work. CSN loaded the bases against Barajas in the eighth when Braeden Schlehuber and Devin Shepherd singled and Gust walked. But Barajas struck out Cody Fiero to end the inning.
Even after walking Reese in the ninth, Barajas still had two outs. But he walked Kyle Bostick and then Tyson Melhoff hit an RBI single.
Barajas then walked Brandon Trodick to load the bases. Then came the most painful blow of all. On an 0-2 count, Shepherd was able to stick his bat out and hit a cueball shot off the end of his bat the opposite way to the right side and the ball found the hole.
Second baseman Logan Parsley was able to knock the ball down, but couldn't field the ball cleanly and two runs scored to tie the game 5-5. Whittemore then went to Jordan Blanchard, who intentionally walked Gust. Blanchard was able to get two strikes on Fiero, but on a 1-2 count, Fiero was able to hit a game-winning single to right field.
"Jose has been the best relief pitcher in the conference all season," Whittemore said. "He didn't throw enough strikes. That's always the name of the game."
Whittemore also wouldn't lament the luck of Shepherd's hit. "I've got to give him credit," Whittemore said. "He put the ball in play. Good things happen when you put the ball in play."
Brian Barnett led off the game with a single and Marshall Kennebrew singled to give WNC runners at first and third with one out. Parsley showed bunt and Kennebrew was caught too far off the bag by Schlehuber for the second out.
But Parsley then hit a line drive that was dropped by left fielder Jeff Gonzales, allowing Barnett to score, giving WNC a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the first, CSN took advantage of an error when Schlehuber doubled and Trodick was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Shepherd followed with a two-run single to give CSN a 2-1 lead. Starratt, though, settled down after that, retiring 11 straight over one stretch.
The Wildcats tied the game in the third. After Jerome Pena walked and Parsley singled, Cliff Shepard hit an RBI single to tie the score 2-2.
WNC chased starting pitcher Egan Smith after Travis Feiner and Kyle Gutchewsky singled. Chase Bradford, who ended up being the winning pitcher, came on to induce Barnett to hit into a double play to end the threat.
But in the sixth, Howard and Lance Ray singled. With the runners going on a 3-2 pitch, Gutchewsky then singled into center field, scoring Howard and when center fielder Robby Garvey bobbled the ball, Ray was able to score all the way from first to make it 4-2.
In the seventh after Parsley reached on a fielder's choice and stole second, he scored on Howard's RBI single to make it 5-2.
Barnett had three hits and Ray, Gutchewsky and Howard all had two hits for WNC.
Even though the Wildcats didn't win a championship this year, Whittemore said he couldn't have asked for anything more from this team.
"I think they gave us all they had," Whittemore said. "When you act and conduct yourselves the way these guys do, you're champions every day."