Even in his 11th season at the helm of the Western Nevada College baseball team, D.J. Whittemore can still witness his team do something he’s not seen in the past.
On Thursday in their Scenic West Athletic Conference opener at John L. Harvey Field in Carson City, the Wildcats erupted for nine first-inning runs, including eight after two were out, starting a doubleheader sweep of College of Southern Idaho, 13-3 in five innings and 6-2 in nine innings.
“I have seen nine-run first innings, but the (eight runs with two outs) is unusual,” Whittemore said.
The Wildcats sent 14 hitters to the plate in the opening frame as six clutch two-out hits provided WNC a 9-0 cushion after the first inning.
“I think everybody heated up at the right time going into conference,” said infielder Justin Mannens, who delivered four of the Wildcats’ 13 hits. “We have a lot of disciplined hitters sitting on their pitch who are hitting it when it’s there.
“When everybody is hitting, it’s contagious and all of a sudden there was a big inning for us.”
CSI starting pitcher Ryan Beard used a double play to move within an out of leaving the first with minimal damage. But Bradley Lewis’ run-scoring double past diving third baseman Trevor Lippard scored Mannens with the second run of the inning, then Daniel Nist crushed a Beard offering over the 25-foot-high fence in center field, putting WNC ahead 4-0.
“Hitting over the monster with that wind, I haven’t seen that before,” Whittemore said. “I don’t know if it’s the flat seams or if he’s that big and strong because the baseballs are different this year, and it seems like they are going further, but he’s a big, strong guy.”
“That’s pretty fun when it happens,” Nist said. “He left it over the plate and I put a good swing on it.”
The scoring didn’t end there. A fielding error kept the inning alive, and David Modler, Casey Cornwell and Chandler Barkdull made the Golden Eagles pay. Modler delivered an RBI double to center, Cornwell smashed a run-scoring single down the right-field line and Barkdull hit an RBI single up the middle.
A two-run throwing error by Lippard allowed Barkdull and Mannens to score the final runs of the bountiful first inning against CSI ace Boyd, who came into the game with a 2-0 record.
A well-rested Matt Young valiantly attempted to escape a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the second inning. After striking out Lippard and Joey Rossi, Young was nicked by a two-run single by Jake Boyd. CSI produced its third run off Young in the third, trimming the deficit to six runs.
However, WNC pushed two runs across the plate in its half of the third. A walk to Tim Lichty forced in a run and Lewis’ fielder’s choice made the score 11-3.
Hitting in the No. 2 spot, Mannens went 4 for 4 with four runs scored. Cornwell finished 2 for 3 with two runs scored and an RBI. Lewis, Nist and Lichty collected two RBI apiece.
Young (2-2) stranded nine runners. He struck out six and walked three in throwing his first complete game.
The Wildcats also struck first in Game 2. Lichty’s two-out base hit in the third plated Cornwell. Lichty also figured in the second run scoring as he got caught in a rundown between first and second bases, giving Mannens time to steal home.
Lefty Jordy Van den Heuvel was effective in his longest outing of the season. Van den Heuvel gave up one hit in his three scoreless innings.
The Golden Eagles scored a fourth-inning run against reliever Jordan Dreibelbis to trim WNC’s lead to 2-1 and tied the score on Cole Walters’ groundout in the seventh.
The deadlock was short-lived as the Wildcats capitalized on four straights walks by relievers Tyler Rosas and Bailey Daugio to start the bottom of the seventh. Following a bases-loaded walk to D.J. Peters to break the tie, Lewis was hit by a pitch, scoring Barkdull for a 4-2 WNC lead. Daugio also issued a RBI free pass to Nist, and Chad Bell added a sacrifice fly before the inning ended with WNC in command, 6-2.
Josh Mill worked 2 1/3 hitless innings to pick up his third win in as many decisions. He struck out two and walked one.
Mannens was 1 for 3 and scored twice in Game 2. Cornwell also scored two runs.
The four-game series concludes today with a twin bill beginning at 11:30 a.m. WNC improved to 12-6 overall and 2-0 in the SWAC. CSI dropped to 13-4 overall and 0-2 in conference play.