Wildcats use eighth inning rallies to finish off sweep of Mt. Hood
The eighth was a special inning for Western Nevada College’s baseball team on Saturday in Carson City.
WNC scored five runs in the eighth to pull away from Mount Hood Community College of Gresham, Ore., in a 10-3 win in the opener of a nonconference baseball doubleheader at John L. Harvey Field. The Wildcats duplicated the feat in game two behind a three-run double by Corey Pool and a two-run homer off the bat of D.J. Peters to pull away to a 10-5 victory.
With the sweep, the Wildcats improved to 22-10 overall.
“We were scared we wouldn’t be able to turn the switch back on,” said WNC coach D.J. Whittemore about his team’s success in the nonconference games. “We only know one speed, and that’s to grind for nine.”
In the opener, freshman pitcher Chase Kaplan won his second straight decision, allowing four hits and two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. Kaplan (3-2) struck out five and walked two. Connor Zwetsch followed Josh Mill out of the bullpen, picking up his team-record-tying sixth save. Zwetsch worked 2 1/3 innings, allowing no hits and striking out four.
Mount Hood pitcher Joe Balfour suffered his first defeat and gave up his first earned runs of the season. The Wildcats reached Balfour for eight hits and five runs in seven innings.
The Wildcats broke open a two-run game with a five-run uprising in the eighth inning. WNC had three triples in its last two innings. Jake Bennett’s RBI triple in the seventh restored a two-run Wildcat lead after the Saints scored a run in the top of the inning.
In the eighth, Bradley Lewis tripled in two runs and David Modler tripled in another.
Peters opened the Wildcats’ scoring with a two-run homer in the fourth inning. Peters led WNC’s 11-hit attack by going 3 for 4 with three runs scored and two RBI. Bennett had two hits and three RBI, Modler was 2 for 3 with two runs scored and a RBI and Lewis was 2 for 4 with two RBI.
The Wildcats capped the four-game sweep of the Saints and their fifth straight victory overall by rallying in game two. The Saints built a 5-2 lead in the top of the fourth.
In the fourth, a RBI single by bullpen catcher Riley Ingram and a run-scoring groundout by Brogan Secrist pulled the Wildcats to within 5-4.
“Riley has the toughest job on the team. To catch bullpen, there’s no glory; it’s all blood sweat and tears,” Whittemore said. “You give him a start and he comes through with three hits. That tells you everything you need to know about him.”
WNC had taken a 2-0 lead in the first on home runs by Pool and Kody Reynolds.
Brandon Lapointe’s RBI double to left-center field scored Pool in the seventh to tie the score at 5. The Wildcats pulled away in the eighth with their second five-run rally of the day. Pool slammed a bases-clearing double and Peters jacked a two-run homer.
Ty Fox started on the mound for WNC, giving up five earned runs in 3 1/3 innings. Sophomore Cody Kerns (2-0) earned the win with a game-changing long relief effort. Kerns allowed just two hits, struck out five and walked one, giving the Wildcats a chance to rally.
“He’s just a team guy,” said Whittemore of Kerns, who has been effective in long and short relief. “He’s going to prepare himself and be ready to go. He’s answered the bell every game.”
Freshman Johnny Meszaros made his season debut, tossing one scoreless inning. He struck out two.
Pool led the Wildcats’ 16-hit attack with four hits, four RBI and three runs scored. Ingram was 3 for 3, while Reynolds and LaPointe chipped in two hits apiece. Bennett extended his streak of consecutive games of reaching base to 39.
The Wildcats will now prepare for College of Southern Nevada, the final series of the first half of the Scenic West Athletic Conference season. The Coyotes boast one of the top pitchers in the nation, Phil Bickford, who was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays with the 10th pick in the 2013 Major League Baseball draft. The teams will play doubleheaders Friday and Saturday at John L. Harvey Field.
“I think it’s realistic to think that Bickford will be the first pitcher to reach the big leagues from this draft class,” Whittemore said.