While his batting average has languished for most of the season, Western Nevada College sophomore catcher Sam Salyers’ work ethic has not.
Extra batting practice paid off for Salyers on Friday afternoon as his two-run single was the difference in the Wildcats’ 3-2 baseball victory over Utah State University Eastern at John L. Harvey Field in Carson City.
Freshman Chandler Barkdull’s grand slam and sophomore Brogan Secrist’s three-run double led the Wildcats to a 15-1 five-inning victory in the second game as WNC continued its hot pursuit of first-place College of Southern Nevada in the Scenic West Athletic Conference.
“My swing feels good, and this is most confident that I have been hitting all year,” Salyers said. “When I get up there, I don’t care how many strikes there are, what the situation is; I feel I can execute it.”
The twin bill sweep moved WNC to 25-9 in conference play, two games behind the Coyotes (26-6), who came back to beat College of Southern Idaho 10-9 in the first game of a doubleheader in Henderson. The second game was played Friday night.
“There’s always going to be a shot,” Barkdull said. “We have to keep going, keep grinding and don’t stop working no matter what.”
Salyers provided two of the Wildcats’ six hits off Eastern Utah ace Bennett Bradford.
“He’s staying diligent and not getting down on himself,” said WNC hitting coach Aaron Demosthenes. “It’s great to see a guy like that get a couple of hits.”
WNC coach D.J. Whittemore divided the pitching duties in both games.
“We’ve been relying on six guys throwing the bulk of the innings all year, so we have to make sure they are pretty fresh at the end,” Whittemore said.
Matt Young worked four scoreless innings in the opener, needing only 47 pitches to earn his seventh win in 12 decisions. Josh Mill gave up six hits over the final three innings but earned his fifth save with two important strikeouts.
In the second-game rout, Chase Kaplan picked up his eighth win without a loss by throwing one-hit ball over three innings. Ty Fox worked the final two innings, surrendering two hits and an unearned run while striking out three Golden Eagles.
Barkdull and Secrist combined for three extra-base hits and nine RBI in the second game.
A two-out double by Tim Lichty put WNC on top, 1-0, in the bottom of the first in the opener Chad Bell’s double to the left-center gap set up the scoring chance.
Salyers delivered his clutch single in the fourth, providing the Wildcats with some breathing room. Daniel Nist sacrificed Lichty and Bradley Lewis into scoring position, then, with two outs, Salyers singled up the middle to score both Wildcats for a 3-0 WNC lead.
The tight opener precipitated a blowout in Game 2. In the first inning, D.J. Peters knocked in Barkdull with a double into the right-field corner, and Peters came home when the Eastern Utah booted Lichty’s grounder to short.
WNC saw five Eastern Utah pitchers during a nine-run third inning. Bell and Nist cracked two-run doubles prior to Barkdull’s enormous first home run in a Wildcat uniform. Barkdull took a changeup over the left-field fence for a grand slam, putting WNC ahead 11-0.
The Wildcats (35-15 overall) and Golden Eagles meet for two more games today, starting at noon at John L. Harvey Field.