It ain’t over till it’s over and for the Western Nevada College baseball team, it’s not over.
The Wildcats stayed alive in the Western District Tournament Friday by routing host Trinidad State (Colo.) 18-5. WNC advanced to today’s championship round where they will face Yavapai, which beat WNC 8-4 earlier Friday.
WNC must beat Yavapai twice to advance to the JUCO World Series in Grand Junction, Colo. It’s likely Chase Kaplan will be the starting pitching in game one against Yavapai for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats scored 11 runs in the seventh inning to break open the game against the Trojans, taking an 18-3 lead. Jordan Reagan pitched a complete game for WNC, allowing four earned runs over seven innings.
Defending Western District champion Yavapai rallied to defeat the Wildcats earlier Friday. Yavapai’s Andrew Gross threw 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief and Ramsey Romano knocked in four runs as the 14th-ranked Roughriders qualified for today’s championship round.
Dylan Enwiller tied the score at 4 by homering with one out in the sixth for Yavapai. The Roughriders continued to time reliever Ty Fox’s pitches in the seventh with consecutive hits by Turtle Kuahaula, Romano and Christian Maggi producing two runs. The Roughriders added a third run in the seventh when Maggi took an extra base on Easley’s sacrifice bunt, beating first baseman Daniel Nist’s wide throw to the plate.
Tim Lichty and D.J. Peters delivered inning-opening hits in the seventh and eighth, but the Roughriders turned double plays in both innings to silence the comeback efforts of the Wildcats. David Modler and Peters reached base in the ninth, but first baseman Brock Ephan squeezed Abe Yagi’s popup to end the game.
Lichty and Modler collected seven of the Wildcats’ 12 hits.
In their first at-bat, the Wildcats learned how strong Nate Easley’s arm is in center field. On Yagi’s base hit, Easley threw out Peters trying to go from first to third, ending the threat.
With a tendency for Yavapai starting pitcher Joseph “JoJo” Romer, a former University of Nevada pitcher, to to experience some wildness, the Wildcats were able to force the Roughrider ace to throw 40 pitches through two innings. The Wildcats nicked him for a run when Casey Cornwell fouled off three pitches before hitting a sacrifice fly to score Bradley Lewis. Lewis walked, went to second on a Lichty’s base hit and took third on Nist’s sacrifice bunt.
Yagi continued his torrid power hitting in the postseason, leading off the fourth inning with a homer 375 feet to right-center field. It was Yagi’s third homer of the postseason and his second shot in as many days. Obviously shaken by allowing his second run to the Wildcats, Romero walked Lewis on four pitches, then Lichty reached on an infield single when Ephan slipped while trying to cover the bag on the chopper to second baseman Enwiller. But Romero refocused and struck out Nist and Cornwell, then retired Sam Salyers on a hard groundball to third base.
Matt Young held the Roughriders hitless until Maggi started the fourth with a double down the right-field line. Maggi stole third base after Young struck out Easley, firing up the Yavapai dugout. Young then walked Ephan on five pitches, setting up Gavin Johns for an RBI single to center. The Wildcats avoided more damage when Yagi dropped Enwiller’s drive to right, but coolly threw to Modler at second for the force out.
Yavapai took its first lead in the fifth on Romano’s two-run homer to right-center field. Young’s start ended one batter later when he gave up a single to Maggi. Coach D.J. Whittemore brought in Fox, who squashed the threat with a force out and strikeout.
In the sixth, the Wildcats retook the lead while running Romero’s pitch count over 100. Romero’s second wild pitch of the inning scored Lichty and sent Nist to third. Salyers’ two-out single to right plated Nist to put WNC ahead 4-3.
Modler’s third hit off Romero prompted a pitching change.
Romero gave up nine hits and three earned runs. He struck out seven and walked three.
Young surrendered four hits and three earned runs in 4 1/3 innings.
He walked four and fanned two.