Pitching has long been the Achilles’ heel of the Western Nevada College softball team since the program’s inception.
On Friday, pitchers Carlee Beck and Ali Lostra, were the main reasons why the Wildcats swept Snow College, 4-3 and 8-1, in a Scenic West Athletic Conference doubleheader at Edmonds Field.
The teams meet again today at noon for another doubleheader. WNC is now 14-20 in SWAC play, and coach Leah Wentworth believes that her team will have to win its final six games to get into the fifth spot entering the regular-season tourney.
And, if Beck and Lostra continue to shine, it’s entirely possible.
Beck scattered nine hits in the opener. She struck out one batter and didn’t walk anybody. Snow threatened in every inning, but Beck and the Wildcats were equal to the task.
“She has really come on strong in the second half of the season,” Wentworth said. “She pitched in back-to-back games last weekend, and she gave us an opportunity to win both of them. Our defense did a great job. They do a great job of stringing hits together.”
“When they started hitting the ball in the first inning I thought to myself ‘Oh man’,” Beck said between games of the doubleheader. “We were able to shut them down when they got runners in scoring position. I just tried to hit my spots and trust my defense. What has changed is that I’m focusing more on my work before the games; working on the spin. I’m doing more in practice (mentally and physically). I never worried about that before.”
Beck gave up three straight hits after one out in the first, but left the bases loaded when she retired Tawni McFarlane and Danika Gough. Getting out of that jam with one run set the tempo for Beck.
Her offense gave her a quick cushion in the bottom of the inning.
Jenny Reichel walked and moved to second on Sydney Darby’s infield single. After Andrea Lee struck out, Alisha Nielsen followed with a three-run homer to left to make it 3-1.
“I’m honestly not a home-run hitter, so it was nice to get it out,” said Nielsen, who now has five long balls on the season. “I know this pitcher, so it was nice to get it off of her. This is the first year I’ve been hitting it out of the park.”
Beck stranded runners at second and third in the second and a runner at second before her teammates came up with what proved to be the winning run in the bottom of the third.
Jenny Quam, who signed a letter of intent with University of Texas-Permian Basin, singled and stole second. She moved to third on a bunt by Rechel and scored on a sacrifice fly by Darby to make it 4-1.
Snow cut the lead to 4-3 in the top of the fourth on a double by Timmane Taylor, an error by Heather Septon, a run-scoring double by Sara Park and run-scoring single by Ally McAfee. Beck stopped the rally by retiring Sydney Butler on a groundball to second.
The Wildcats’ defense came to the rescue in the sixth.
After one out, Kelsey Simmonds singled infield, but was forced at second by Park, McAfee followed with a flyball to deep center. Quam had trouble with the sun, and the ball glanced off her glove. She picked it up and threw a strike to Nielsen, who threw to Darby at the plate to retire Park to end the inning.
“That was a game-changing play,” Wentworth said.
Snow still wasn’t done attacking. The Idaho school had the tying run on third with two outs and Gough ripped a shot to third, and fortunately for the Wildcats, it was right at Septon who gloved it to end the game.
There was no drama in the second game, as WNC scored four in the second to snap a 1-1 tie and take a 5-1 lead.
Lostra, after giving up a run in the first, allowed just three hits the rest of the way. She fanned two and walked three in her 88-pitch effort.
“Ali did a good job.” Wentworth said. “She had great movement on her ball. We played great defense behind her. Our girls played today like they are capable of playing.”
Quam singled and scored on Darby’s sacrifice fly in the first to tie the game at 1.
In the second, Quam singled home two runs and Rechel also doubled home a run.
Lee singled and scored on Lostra’s fielder’s choice to make it 6-1 in the third.