PHOENIX — Through the first four innings of the 2016 baseball season, Western Nevada College played the type of baseball associated with the program’s 10 previous winning seasons.
But the Wildcats couldn’t hold a three-run lead against South Mountain Community College in their season opener Saturday in Phoenix. WNC pitchers struggled to throw mid-game strikes, leading to a 6-3 comeback victory by the Cougars.
South Mountain overtook the Wildcats in the sixth when Wildcat relievers struggled to find the strike zone. Four walks, two wild pitches, a passed ball and a hit batter led to three runs crossing the plate for a 4-3 South Mountain lead.
“We allowed them to beat us without swinging the bat,” said WNC coach D.J. Whittemore. “You either command the ball or lose. Today we lost.”
WNC produced the first run in the opening frame as freshman Chandler Barkdull walked, stole second base and advanced to third on a groundout. He scored on freshman Chad Bell’s groundball to the right side of the infield.
Freshman first baseman Daniel Nist homered over the left-field fence in the second inning as WNC doubled its lead, 2-0.
WNC went ahead 3-0 in the third inning as Bell doubled and scored on Brogan Secrist’s base hit.
“Overall, it is really obvious how hard our guys worked in the offseason,” Whittemore said. “Lots of players have made strides.”
Sophomore pitcher Matt Young, who blanked the Cougars through four innings, ran into trouble in the fifth. Young left after the Cougars loaded the bases with a pair of singles and a sacrifice bunt that he couldn’t come up with along the third-base line.
Freshman reliever Jordan Ragan allowed just one of those Cougars to score as catcher Sam Salyers threw out a baserunner at second base following a fly out to D.J. Peters. The rally ended on a groundout to second baseman David Modler. But Ragan and sophomore Josh Mill couldn’t hold the 3-1 lead in the pivotal three-run sixth.
In the seventh inning, South Mountain widened its advantage to 6-3 on a two-out, two-run single by Jacob Aguilar.
In his 62-pitch, four-inning outing, Young allowed four hits and one earned run. He struck out six and walked one.
WNC got all three of its hits and runs off starter Pono Anderson. The Wildcats were no-hit over the final 5 2/3 innings by relievers Jackson Webb and Marshall Shill.
WNC (0-1) continues its four-game series with South Mountain today at noon.
SOFTBALL: WNC 3-3 at tournament
HENDERSON — After upsetting ninth-ranked Pima Community College on Friday, the Wildcats nearly took down second-ranked Eastern Arizona, losing 6-5 in the College of Southern Nevada Kickoff Classic on Saturday in Henderson. The Wildcats followed the one-run loss with an 8-7 victory over Central Arizona. They opened the tournament’s second day with an 8-7 eight-inning defeat to Yavapai College.
“We battled really well against some of the top teams,” said WNC coach Leah Wentworth. “We haven’t been able to get that much work in on the field, but we’re right there offensively against the teams we’ve come across.”
WNC built a three-run edge against Eastern Arizona, but several fielding errors brought the Monsters back into the game. After the Monsters went ahead in the seventh, WNC had the potential tying run on second base when the game ended.
Briauna Carter and Makaylee Jaussi provided two hits apiece, while Melanie Mecham and Samantha Bell each delivered a hit. Carson grad Kaitlyn Jimmy pitched the distance and took the loss.
After absorbing back-to-back one-run defeats, the Wildcats earned a close win of their own. WNC rallied from a 5-0 deficit to edge Central Arizona by a run.
Sophomore outfielder Triniece Lesky slammed a pair of doubles and knocked in four runs to make a winner of Jimmy, who relieved Kristina George.
“Kaitlyn did a great job,” Wentworth said. “She was in the circle a lot for us today.”
In their early game on Saturday, the Wildcats rallied from a five-run deficit on the strength of three homers, but Yavapai pushed across a tie-breaking run in the eighth inning to earn the win.
After falling behind 7-2 through four innings, WNC erupted for five runs in the fifth. Two-run homers by Carter and Chelsea Latu brought the Wildcats even.
“It was a good battle,” Wentworth said. “They were even keel throughout the game and trusted that their sticks, that with time they would have their opportunities.”
Dustie Durham blasted two homers and knocked in four runs for Yavapai.
Jaussi and Noa Talia topped the Wildcats with three hits. Talia crushed her first homer of the season — a solo shot in the second inning — and scored three runs. Gabrielle Canibeyaz smacked a pair of hits.
Jimmy relieved George in the fourth inning and limited Yavapai to five hits and an earned run. She took the loss.
WNC’s 1-2 record on Saturday leaves it season mark at 3-3.