Losing the opening game of a series hasn’t been an omen for the Western Nevada College baseball team this season.
Four times the Wildcats have dropped the series opener, only to battle back and win the next game and in most cases, claim the four-game series.
The Wildcats lost the series opener to Colorado Northwestern on Saturday, 1-0, but WNC won the next three games to regain a share of the Scenic West Athletic Conference lead.
WNC took both ends of a doubleheader from the Spartans, 10-2 and 17-5, Sunday in Rangely, Colo. As a result, the Wildcats improved to 10-2 in SWAC play to tie College of Southern Nevada for first place and raised their overall record to 20-8.
“We were 1-3 to start the year and we’ve come a long way since then,” said WNC coach D.J. Whittemore “There are a lot of players on this team that have very high expectations for themselves and they go out and compete very consistently. That’s a good recipe for winning ballgames.
“We have some veterans on our team and good leadership from captains Tim Lichty and Matt Young; those guys don’t waver and start changing what they do because the wind is blowing in a different direction. They are steadfast in their attitude and preparation, and that rubs off on the other guys.”
Lichty, a sophomore catcher, launched grand slam and solo homers during a tie-breaking, 14-run fifth inning in Game 2. The season-high single-inning scoring output also included a two-run homer by DJ Peters, two-run doubles by Sam Salyers and Brogan Secrist, and David Modler’s RBI base hit.
“That’s quite an explosion, and a lot of those runs were with two outs, too,” Whittemore said. “We don’t give up on an at-bat, we don’t give up on an inning. We’re slow and steady and keep coming at you.”
WNC took a 3-0 lead in the third inning. A RBI single by Justin Mannens, a sacrifice fly by Peters and a run-scoring squeeze bunt by Lichty accounted for the run production.
But the Spartans’ Taylor Riding tied it with one swing of the bat in the bottom of the third. His three-run homer ended Jordy Van den Heuvel’s outing on the mound. Sophomore Kyle Thompson pitched 1 1/3 inning of hitless relief to earn his second win in as many decisions.
Lichty topped the Wildcats with three hits and six RBI. Modler, Salyers and Secrist provided two hits, while Peters knocked in four runs.
In the opener, the Wildcats rallied from a 2-1 deficit by scoring three times in the fourth inning and five in fifth. Chandler Barkdull’s two-run single and RBI doubles by Modler and Chad Bell produced the comeback. Daniel Nist capped the scoring with a solo homer in the seventh.
Reliever Jordan Dreibelbis was the beneficiary of the scoring while doing his part by holding the Spartans scoreless over 4 1/3 innings. Dreibelbis inherited two runners in the third inning, escaped that jam and allowed just one hit the rest of the way. He struck out seven.
“He was probably the best pitcher of the weekend for us,” Whittemore said. “He’s been making some adjustments during the week, trying to get better and finish hitters more consistently.”
The Wildcats remain on the road, visiting Utah State Eastern University on Thursday and Friday in Price.