STERLING, Colo. — Western Nevada College advanced to the Western District baseball tournament championship round by splitting a pair of games on Friday.
The Wildcats dropped into losers’ bracket with a 4-2 defeat by sixth-ranked Cochise, Ariz., on Friday morning. WNC rebounded by ousting Lamar, 9-1, in the afternoon.
WNC (43-19) earned another shot at Cochise behind the pitching of Christian Stolo and Evan Parker, as well as a six-run fifth inning.
Stolo allowed one run on three hits in his 5 1/3 innings of work, while Parker blanked Lamar on one hit the rest of the way in the eighth-inning mercy-rule win.
As a result, the Wildcats will need to defeat Cochise twice today to qualify for the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series for the second straight year.
“We aren’t going into (today) thinking we have to beat them twice; they have to beat us,” WNC coach D.J. Whittemore said.
Cole Ferguson delivered a two-run single to lead the offense against Lamar. Mike Umscheid capped a big day at the plate with an RBI single, and Tyler Baker contributed a run-scoring base hit. Also for the Wildcats, Tony Roque squeezed in a run and pinch-hitter Donald Glover Jr. hit a single off the wall.
Parker, who worked a shutout inning in the first game, pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings against Lamar.
“Parker did a great job and set us up for tomorrow,” Whittemore said. “He’ll probably want the ball again tomorrow.”
In WNC’s opening game on Friday, freshman Steven Naemark scattered eight Wildcat hits to pitch the complete-game victory for the Apaches.
WNC sophomore pitcher Phil Belding overcame a rough start to throw eighth innings and more than 100 pitches for the second straight game.
“Phil was really gutsy. He made a lot of good pitches,” Whittemore said.
The Apaches (48-16) snapped a 2-2 tie by pushing across two runs in the seventh inning against Belding.
Roque gave WNC some hope in the ninth inning, driving a single up the middle, but Umscheid’s hard grounder was turned for a double play, and Naemark fanned AJ Hernandez to end the game.
Umscheid collected his third hit, a double to center field, to lead off the Wildcat seventh. Hernandez’s groundout to the right side moved Umscheid to third base. Stolo delivered a sacrifice fly with a two-strike count to knot the score at 2.
Neither team mounted much offense in the middle of the game.
Cochise jumped ahead 2-0 in the first frame. Belding gave up a leadoff double to Nate Hale. Tagg Duce’s infield single deep in the hole at short knocked in Hale for a 1-0 Apache lead. Frank Salas then walked to put runners on first and second with one out. Next, Esteban Bastidas was hit by pitch on full count to load the bases.
Tyler Bess’ RBI groundout to Umscheid made the score 2-0. Belding, however, used a groundout to first to strand baserunners at first and second.
Belding threw 29 pitches in first inning after tossing 130 overall in a complete-game 6-0 region-title clinching win over College of Southern Nevada last Saturday.
WNC missed a chance score first in the opening inning. Conor Harber started a two-out rally with a single to right field. Connor Klein followed with an unusual infield double that was lost in the sun. Harber took third on the popup, but Ferguson grounded out to end the threat.
Umscheid started another two-out rally in the second for the Wildcats with a base hit, but Hernandez was retired on a groundball to the right side of the infield.
Belding bounced back in the second, needing only four pitches to set down the Apaches 1-2-3.
Cochise had a chance to extend its lead in the third. Jason Parks started the rally with a base hit down the right-field line. Belding lost Duce on a full count as the walk put two baserunners aboard with nobody out.
Belding threw out Parks at third base on a sacrifice bunt attempt. However, the Apaches pulled off a double steal to make up for the botched bunt. But Belding struck out Bastidas and Bess to prevent the Apaches from widening their 2-0 lead.
In the fourth, Belding walked Jake Luna on four pitches with one out. With two outs, Luna stole second base and went to third when the throw from catcher Ferguson got by second baseman Hernandez. But Belding kept the score at 2-0 with a strikeout.
The first two Wildcats reached base to open the fifth inning. Stolo’s fielder’s choice moved Umscheid to third.
Matt Becker squeezed in Umscheid after swinging away earlier in the plate appearance, cutting Cochise’s lead in half, 2-1. Harber, however, popped up to leave Stolo at second base.
In the Cochise fifth, Duce was hit by a pitch with one out and went to second on an errant Belding pickoff throw to first. Belding lost Salas on a full count for a walk. The Wildcats, however, turned a double play to get out of the jam.
Joseph Crunkilton lined a double into the right-field corner with two outs in the sixth and was lifted for pinch-runner Alex Fife. With two strikes on Roque, Fife stole third base. But Naemark didn’t allow the tying run to score, getting Roque to fly out to center.
Whittemore is unsure if the team’s top hurler, Cody Hamlin, will pitch today against Cochise. Hamlin was treated in a Sterling emergency room for flu-like symptoms on Friday evening.
“He’ll be a game-time decision,” Whittemore said.