It was a case of feast or famine for Western Nevada College’s baseball team Friday afternoon against Mt. Hood.
In the opener, the Wildcats pounded out 16 hits in rallying from deficits of 7-0, 11-10 and 13-11 to pull out a 14-13 victory in the 12th inning on a walk-off hit by reserve catcher Colby Rice. In the nightcap, WNC only got one runner past second base and three hits against Brandon Williams in dropping a 3-0 decision.
The teams conclude the four-game series today with a doubleheader starting at noon. Christian Stolo and Luke Eubank will start on the hill today for the Wildcats, who are now 19-11 on the season.
“Baseball is an amazing game,” WNC coach D.J. Whittemore said after the opening triumph which featured 27 runs, 33 hits and nine errors. “You never know when you’re going to score. You have to play every pitch.”
And the Wildcats never quit playing throughout.
After finding themselves behind 7-2 after three innings, WNC scored three in three in the sixth, one in the seventh and four in the eighth to take a 10-7 lead.
Connor Klein dropped down a bunt single to start the sixth and scored on a triple to deep right-centerfield by Mike Umscheid to make it 7-3. Donald Glover Jr.’s sacrifice fly scored Umscheid to make it 7-4. A.J. Hernandez walked, was balked to second, moved to third on Christian Stolo’s pinch-hit single and scored when Mt. Hood reliever Myles Richard tried to pick him off third.
The Wildcats added another run in the seventh when Joey Crunkilton doubled and reached third when Ryan Degner bobbled the ball near the fence in center. Cole Ferguson followed with a run-scoring single to make it 7-6. Klein followed with a single, but lefty Joe Piercey retired three straight hitters to end the threat. First baseman Jake Thran made a diving stop on Glover’s hard groundball to save a run.
In the eighth, two errors by Mt. Hood plus run-scoring hits by Ferguson and Klein, and bunt by Unmscheid enabled the Wildcats to take a 10-7 lead, their first advantage of the game.
Tyler Bennett, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning, ran into trouble in the ninth.
Cody Childs walked and moved to second on an infield out. Logan Grindy was hit by a pitch and then Degner singled to load the bases. Bennett exited in favor of Evan Parker, who promptly yielded a two-run double to Hunter Weiss to make it 10-9. Thran followed with a sacrifice fly, tying the game at 10. The Saints went ahead 11-10 on a single by Kendall Main. Parker retired John Wellborn to avoid further damage.
Conor Harber forced extra innings when his out-double scored Tyler Baker, who had singled and moved to second on a balk. Harber’s blow tied the game at 11.
Neither team scored until the 12th.
Mt. Hood scored twice against reliever Spencer Greer (3-1), and both runs were unearned. Greer still picked up the win thanks to Rice’s big hit. Grindy had the big hit, a two-run single with two outs.
Matt Becker and Ferguson walked against reliever Ian Ence to start the 12th. Sam Morland walked Klein to load the bases. Umscheid followed with sacrifice fly to make it 13-12. Morland walked Glover intentionally to reload the bases. Clint Burris came on to face Rice, the last non-pitcher left on the WNC bench.
Rice fell behind quickly 0-2, and after Burris misfired, Rice lined a single to center to send pinch-runner Phil Belding and Klein home with the tying and winning runs.
“I was kind of struggling with my at-bats,” Rice said. “To have an opportunity like this and come in and make it happen, I feel really good about it. I was looking to hit the first nice pitch I saw. There’s always a sense of being down and we were for a little bit, but we always seemed to pick it back up, especially today.”
“Colby is a grinder,” Whittemore said. “Colby is a team player. He put a lot of extra work in all week. It’s good to see the work pay off. That’s something that we preach from the first day of practice hat everybody contributes.”
Rice admitted that the game-winner was a little sweeter because he grew up in Oregon.
“I know a couple of guys on their team, so it felt good,” Rice said.
Klein and Harber led the WNC offense with three hits each, while Baker, Ferguson and Glover added two each. Baker extended his hit streak to six games , Klein to four and Glover to five in the opener.
The offense disappeared in the second game, as right-hander Brandon Williams allowed three singles, one each to Klein, Alex Fife and Becker. Williams fanned eight and walked two to get the nod over Belding, who scattered five hits in a losing effort. Belding fanned five and walked three, but hit three batters.
“Their pitcher was terrific,” Whittemore said. “That was one of the best pitching performances ever against us. That was a gutsy effort by Belding to give our bullpen a break in the second game. He wasn’t perfect today, and he needed to be perfect.”
Belding and the Wildcats fell behind 2-0 in the second on run-scoring hits by Marcus Blackmon and Degner, the latter with two outs.
Williams cruised through the first five innings, and in the sixth it looked like the Wildcats might get on the board.
Stolo drew a leadoff walk and was thrown out trying to steal. After back-to-back errors put runners at first and second, Crunkilton popped up. Klein followed with a single to left. Weiss made a good throw home, and Blackmon made a swipe tag on Becker to end the inning.
The Saints added an insurance run in the seventh on a two-out double by Shea Coates.
“It’s so frustrating,” Belding said. “They were sitting on my fastball on the first pitch, so I pitched them backward, and threw breaking pitches early. It worked pretty well.”