HENDERSON — No deficit is too large for the Western Nevada College Wildcats.
WNC fell behind College of Southern Nevada, 5-0, in the second inning of the Region 18 baseball championship on Saturday afternoon in Henderson but rallied with six runs in the final two innings to overtake the Coyotes, 11-9.
Chad Bell delivered the knockout punch, a two-run homer with one out in the ninth inning after the Coyotes tied the score in the top of the inning.
“Man, one of the greatest moments of my life,” Bell said. “I knew the wind was blowing out to left field and most of my hits go to left-center field, so I was just looking for a fastball over the plate that I could stay on. I thought it had a pretty good chance of going out.”
Once it cleared the left-center-field fence, Bell soaked up the special moment and saw all of his teammates waiting for him at home plate to begin their Region 18 championship celebration. He chucked his his helmet 20 feet into the air before he was mobbed by his teammates.
Assistant coach Aaron “Demo” Demosthenes didn’t hesitate to give Bell the green light to his freshman third baseman on a 2-0 count.
“Not at all,” Demosthenes said. “I think we’ve seen Chad hit the other way with authority all year long. He hasn’t always had the breaks, but he believed in it, and he’s going to get the green light every time.”
It marked the second straight game the Wildcats rallied to beat CSN. WNC came back from a four-run deficit to down the Coyotes, 9-7, on Friday to advance to the title game of the double-elimination tournament.
As the Region 18 champions, WNC (41-17) earned a spot into the Western District tournament May 19-21 at Trinidad, Colo.
“This is an incredible thrill beyond my wildest imagination,” said WNC coach D.J. Whittemore said. “For the freshmen to show up on campus knowing that it was the final year of the program and for the sophomores to stick together and come back, what a family.”
In the bottom of the eighth inning, WNC crept within a run when Alec Hutt walked Brogan Secrist with the bases loaded, ending Hutt’s extended relief outing. Reliever Ben Cutting’s first pitch hit Bradley Lewis, forcing in the tying run. After Daniel Nist fell behind Cutting 0-2, he bashed a two-run single to left field to put WNC ahead 9-7. It was the second straight day Nist delivered a two-run hit to put WNC ahead.
“We all just believe in each other,” Nist said. “When We get in those late innings we just have people that keep us in it and we grind out ABs. The guys in front of me get the knocks and that lets me get up and get the knocks.”
Dillon Johnson’s grand slam home run gave the Coyotes a 5-0 lead in the second.
Following the Coyotes’ five-run outburst in the second, Chase Kaplan quieted CSN’s offense, retiring 17 of 22 batters through the seventh inning. His resurgence enabled the Wildcats to force a 5-5 tie in the seventh.
WNC broke through against Coyote starter Todd Danzeisen in the sixth, with Abe Yagi’s walk starting a three-run rally. Lewis, who took the Coyote pitcher to the warning track in his previous at-bat, lined one to right-center field for a double. Nist’s hard single to left plated Yagi for WNC’s first run. Casey Cornwell’s RBI single to center pulled WNC within 5-2.
To keep Kaplan in the game, Whittemore batted him in the designated hitter spot and nearly knocked in a run. After fouling off a pitch, he was robbed by second baseman Johnson, who forced out Cornwell at second.
With Kaplan on first base and Nist on third, David Modler brought home the third run of the inning with a hot smash to center. The
Successive base hits by Bell, D.J. Peters and pinch-hitter Brogan Secrist brought the Wildcats within a run, 5-4. Hutt came back to strike out Lewis, but with Secrist running on the play, the ball glanced off his batting helmet as he swiped second base and went into left field, permitting Tim Lichty to score the tying run.
The Wildcats worked the Coyote bullpen for four walks during their four-run rally in the eighth.
Fox, who collected a win and two saves in three appearances, was selected as the tournament MVP. Peters, Cornwell and Nist made the all-tournament team.