WNC baseball sweeps South Mountain

For the first time in program history, Western Nevada College's baseball team has started 4-0.

The Wildcats, thanks to timely hitting by Conor Harber and Alex Fife, swept South Mountain Community College, 8-2 and 4-0, in nonconference doubleheader Saturday afternoon at John L. Harvey Field.

The four-game series was originally scheduled to be played in Las Vegas, but rain doused those plans, and the series was moved to Carson City. It's the earliest WNC has ever played a home game.

WNC coach D.J. Whittemore was pleased to get the sweep, but shrugged off the historical significance.

"We're a lot better here (at home)," Whittemore said. "We didn't have to drive nine hours to play and we didn't have to sleep in strange beds.

"We had a lot of good at-bats today. Even our outs were hit well; lineouts and hard groundballs. Our pitching was very good (overall)."

In the opener, WNC spotted South Mountain an early 1-0 lead, but scored seven unanswered runs to take control early.

Winning pitcher Phil Belding worked the first five innings, allowing two runs on three hits and zero walks. He turned the ball over to Evan Parker who allowed just two hits in his three-inning stint. Tyler Bennett finished up with a scoreless ninth.

Belding's first inning was his worst. He threw 20 pitches and had trouble with his location.

DW Warner doubled, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Brennen Pierson's infield out. He gave up a single to Ethan Springston in the first, but went on to retire 13 of the last 14 batters he faced before departing.

"He did a good job of keeping his composure," Whittemore said. "His slider wasn't working (initially), but he settled in after the first. He was pitching to the wrong side of the plate."

Cole Ferguson led off the second with a double to the gap in right-center field. Donald Glover followed with a bunt between home and first. SMCC pitcher Christian Castro's throw hit Glover in the back, but the speedy WNC outfielder appeared to have the throw beaten anyway. Harber followed with shot over the fence in left to give WNC a 3-1 lead.

"It was a splitter," Harber said. "He threw me a slider on the first pitch and then two fastballs. I was able to get the barrel on it."

WNC made it 5-1 in the third with two more runs, both unearned. A bases-loaded error on Harber's groundball to third scored the first run and the second scored on Joseph Crunkilton's groundball between first and second. The ball was fielded cleanly, but nobody covered first. Glover, who started the play on second, was tagged out between third and home to end the inning.

The Wildcats added two more in the fourth when Tyler Baker and Fife, a courtesy runner for catcher Colby Rice, both scored when Castro uncorked a wild pitch. The ball bounced high, and the SMCC catcher couldn't locate it immediately.

Belding gave up his final run and hit in the top of the fifth. TC Mark sliced a triple to left and scored on an infield out.

Evan Parker came on in the sixth and immediately found himself in a first-and-second jam right off the bat. He got the next hitter to hit into a double play, which moved Warner, who had singled, to third. Parker loaded the bases on two walks, but struck out Mark to end the inning unscathed.

"That was the out of the game right there," Whittemore said.

The second game was a seven-inning affair, and it was scoreless for the first three thanks to a gutty effort by ex-McQueen star Christian Stolo and Jared Mattera.

Mattera allowed just a hit in his stint as did Stolo.

Stolo, however, had to work out of a jam in the bottom of the second when South Mountain put runners at second and third after a single, walk and infield out. Stolo retired Brandon Downs on a fly to right to end the threat.

"Stolo gutted it out," Whittemore said. "I don't think his arm felt great. He made good pitches when he had to."

The Wildcats busted the game open in the fourth, scoring four times off Mattera before he was pulled in favor of Vincent Lujan.

After one out, A.J. Hernandez walked, moved to second on a single by Ferguson and moved to third on a hard single to left by Glover. Fife followed with a laser just inside the line at first, scoring all three runs. Fife eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Tony Roque.

"It was low and inside," Fife said. " I like inside pitches. I just took a whack. It was foot, maybe less, fair."

That cushion was more than enough for Cody Hamlin, who relieved Stolo. Hamlin, a side-armer, retired 12 of the 13 hitters he faced. He set down the first nine before allowing a single to Lane Doty in the bottom of the seventh.

"This (the sweep) gives us good momentum before going to play Central Arizona next weekend," said sophomore first baseman-outfielder Mike Umscheid. "Today we were getting runners on, moving them over and getting big hits."


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