Sophomore Day for the Western Nevada College baseball team brought some morning rain and a little hail from the skies above, as well an emotionally charged effort by the Wildcats, playing their final home game of the regular season Saturday at John L. Harvey Field.
Sophomores Kody Reynolds and Brandon Lapointe combined to knock in five runs and sophomore hurler Thomas Kerr pitched five innings and fanned eight — both career highs — as the Wildcats downed Utah State University Eastern, 7-1.
“They have a lot of pride, and it’s big to go out on a winning note,” said WNC coach D.J. Whittemore. “Having been here for two years, they see what goes into it and they know how much they put into it.”
WNC, which improved to 31-21 overall, opened the scoring in the second inning. After a leadoff base hit by Tim Lichty, Reynolds found the right-center-field gap with a run-scoring double.
The Wildcats extended their lead to 6-1 in the fourth as Reynolds belted a two-run homer and catcher Brandon Lapointe legged out a two-run triple. Jake Bennett capped the five-run inning with a RBI single to right field.
Reynolds’ fourth homer of the season increased his team-leading RBI total to 44.
“I got a couple of balls that were in the zone to hit, and I took advantage of it,” Reynolds said. “That is when I know I’m going well, when I’m hitting the ball the other way.”
WNC made the score 7-1 in the seventh as Brogan Secrist, Reynolds and Peters strung together base hits.
But as much hitting told the story of this win, so did pitching. In his five-inning outing, Kerr (3-2) gave up just two hits and one earned run. He walked two.
“Nobody was more up to the challenge today than Tommy,” Whittemore said. “Tommy saved his best pitching performance of his career for the last day at home, so I’m proud and happy for him.
“He’s still getting better and that’s what you want to see.”
Kerr was motivated to succeed in his first start of the season.
“I just wanted to send the rest of the sophomores out with a win and give it my best, and the cards fell in my favor,” Kerr said. “It felt great to be out there.”
One of Kerr’s pitches in particular gave the Golden Eagles trouble.
“I just developed a cutter and it was on point today,” Kerr said. “I just kept them off balance.”
Sophomore Cody Kerns relieved Kerr to start the sixth and picked up where Kerr left off with his effectiveness.
Kerns surrendered two hits in three scoreless innings and struck out four. Connor Zwetsch, a sophomore closer, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning and recorded the Wildcats’ 13th and 14th strikeouts.
“Connor is moving in the right direction and Cody has been just a great teammate and really fun to coach,” Whittemore said. “Cody doesn’t complain. He’s leading the team in ERA, and he pitches when he pitches, and he’s just ready to do his job.”
Reynolds collected three of the Wildcats’ 12 hits. He was 3 for 4 with three RBI. Lapointe was 2 for 3 with a run scored and two RBI; Peters delivered two hits, scored a run and knocked in a run; and Lichty went 2 for 3 and scored twice.
“Brandon has been working really hard with coach (Aaron) ‘Demo’ (Demosthenes), putting extra time in with his swing,” Whittemore said.
“He probably has had as many hard-hit balls that have been caught as anybody on our team. It was good for him to get a sinking line drive for a triple and then a shallow fly ball for a hit.”
The Wildcats conclude the regular season with a four-game series against College of Southern Nevada starting at 6 pm. Thursday in Henderson. CSN wrapped up the Scenic West Athletic Conference regular-season title on Saturday.
“We’ll find out how good we are real quick next weekend; we’re playing the best team in the league,” Whittemore said.
“At the beginning of the year, I thought they might have the best team in the country, and I think that still stands. I’m going to have to see somebody beat them to change my mind on that.”