A day after battering the South Mountain pitching staff for 18 hits and 15 runs, Western Nevada College struggled to put the ball in play on a chilly day in Phoenix.
Justin Wick no-hit the Wildcats into the fifth inning and WNC hitters fanned 11 times as the Cougars held on to win the nonconference baseball game 5-3 on Monday.
Chandler Barkdull delivered the first hit off Wick, scoring pinch-runner David Modler from third base on a shot to left-center field. But Wick caught a soft liner off the bat of Justin Mannens and doubled Casey Cornwell off second base as the South Mountain starter exited with a 4-1 edge.
In the seventh inning, Daniel Nist crossed the plate on a two-out wild pitch as WNC crept to within 4-2. Barkdull followed with a single to right field to move Cornwell to third, but Mannens lifted a fly to short center to end the threat.
A two-out rally in the eighth brought the Wildcats even closer. Brogan Secrist doubled and scored on Nist’s base hit to left field. Reliever Bradley Gonzales struck out Modler to preserve the one-run lead.
“We’re finding out a few things about our baseball team and so far they are almost all positive,” said WNC coach D.J. Whittemore. “We have a lot of guys who care a lot, grinding and doing a nice job.”
WNC sophomore right-hander Ty Fox made his first start of the season and struggled with his control before being relieved in the fourth inning. Sophomore reliever Kyle Thompson gave the Wildcats a chance to rally by throwing four innings of one-run relief.
“Kyle gave us a chance to win and did a nice job with Sam mixing speeds and really forcing contact,” Whittemore said.
South Mountain opened the scoring in the first. Rigoberto Aguilar’s double scored Markus Montelongo from first base to provide South Mountain with a 1-0 lead. Fox escaped further damage with a couple of strikeouts.
Fox’s control became an issue in the second inning as South Mountain took advantage of two walks, a balk and a hit batter to score two more runs.
WNC didn’t capitalize on a pair of one-out walks by Wick in the third inning. Wick fanned Mannens and Chad Bell to keep the Wildcats scoreless.
Thompson replaced Fox following a one-out single by Lacayo in the fourth inning. Pinch-runner Brian Kiser advanced to third on a base hit by Marco Burgarello. A pickoff attempt by Thompson caught Burgarello off the base, but resulted in Kiser beating a throw home for a 4-0 South Mountain lead. Salyers was injured on the play, receiving a cut above his right eye, but stayed in the game after a short delay. Salyers helped Thompson get out of the jam by throwing out Burgarello trying to steal third base following a strikeout of Montelongo.
Barkdull, WNC’s leadoff hitter, was a frequent baserunner. In addition to going 2 for 3, the outfielder walked twice.
“Barkdull was one of the biggest reasons we went 16-4 in the fall,” Whittemore said. “He’s a very good leadoff hitter. If the pitcher throws a strike, he’ll hit it; if he doesn’t, he’ll take it.”
The teams conclude their four-game series at 1 p.m. Tuesday. WNC will open a four-game series against 13th-ranked Cochise on Thursday at Morse Stadium in Henderson.
SUNDAY: WNC 15, South Mountain 5
A day after collecting just three hits, the Wildcats totaled 18 hits, including three home runs, in a 15-5 rout of the Cougars in Phoenix on Sunday.
DJ Peters, Justin Mannens and Daniel Nist each homered and combined for 10 hits and nine RBI as the Wildcats made amends for a 6-3 defeat to the Cougars on Saturday.
“It was an incredible offensive explosion,” Whittemore said.
For the second straight game, the team that jumped out to a 3-0 lead wound up losing. South Mountain tallied two runs in the second inning and one in the third against WNC starting pitcher Jordan Dreibelbis.
After blanking the Wildcats for the first three frames, South Mountain starter Vinnie Tarantola ran into trouble in the fourth. The Wildcats loaded the bases with no outs, and Sam Salyers’ two-run double over the left fielder’s head made the score 3-2. Later in the inning, Casey Cornwell’s groundout pulled the Wildcats even.
WNC took the lead for good in the fifth. Peters’ sacrifice fly plated Mannens and Nist stroked a two-run single after Chad Bell and Brogan Secrist executed a double steal.
The Cougars trimmed WNC’s lead to 6-5 in their half of the fifth, but the Wildcats scored five times in the sixth to take command, 11-5. Mannens knocked in a run before Peters hammered a three-run homer to center and Nist jacked a solo shot to center for his second homer in as many days.
WNC’s bullpen struggled on opening day, but sophomore Chase Kaplan came out of the pen Sunday with a completely different result. Kaplan earned the win with 3 2/3 innings of one-hit relief, fanning three and walking one.
Eric Flores knocked in a run during WNC’s two-run eighth. The Wildcats completed the scoring with Mannens’ capping his big day at the plate with a home run and Secrist hitting a RBI single.
Mannens finished a double shy of hitting for the cycle, going 4 for 6 with three runs scored and two RBI. Peters was 4 for 5 with two runs scored and four RBI. Nist, Secrist and Salyers each connected for two hits.