40 wins … and counting
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – OK, it’s only the second year of the Western Nevada Community College baseball program. But it was quite simply the most masterful pitching performance in the Wildcats’ history.
And memo to the Atlanta Braves – Your price to sign Cole Rohrbough just went up – considerably.
Rohrbough was brilliant over 7.1 innings as WNCC won its opening game of the JUCO World Series on Saturday, 2-0 over Delgado Community College of New Orleans at Sulplizo Field.
WNCC, now 40-22-2, on the season, set up a showdown with the nation’s No. 1 team, New Mexico Community College, in a winner’s bracket game at 1 p.m. Monday.
Rohrbough struck out 12 and walked three while giving up three hits in his outing. And just as good as Rohrbough were Dan Grubbs and Stephen Sauer as neither allowed a hit to combine with Rohrbough on the three-hit shutout.
“I knew the first game was going to be huge,” Rohrbough said. “This is the biggest game of my life for sure.”
The Braves own the rights to Rohrbough and are expected to do everything they can to sign him. WNCC coach D.J. Whittemore said every time Rohrbough pitches well, he adds up to $100,000 to his pitching bonus.
“Every day he pitches bad he loses a $100,000,” Whittemore said. “That’s a lot of pressure.”
While the argument could be made that Rohrbough tacked $100,000 onto his signing bonus, Rohrbough said he didn’t think so. He said because his velocity wasn’t as good as usual, he thought his stock stayed the same.
Just as good as Rohrbough was Brian Legnon, who struck out eight over eight innings and allowed just one unearned run for Delgado.
That run came in the eighth when Cliff Shepard lined a shot that was dropped by the right fielder that went as an error and allowed Shepard to make it to second base. Then with one out, Legnon threw a wild pitch, allowing Shepard to go to third. Andrew Reid followed with an RBI single to make it 1-0.
With one out in the bottom of the eighth, Rohrbough was pulled after he walked Lee Haydel, who stole second and went to third on a throwing error. But Grubbs struck out the batter on the play and then struck out the next batter to end the inning.
As he has done all season, Chad Walling helped manufacture a key insurance run in the ninth. After Andrew Ferguson singled, Walling came in as a pinch runner.
He was running on a groundball and made it to second, keeping WNCC out of an inning-ending double play. Walling then scored on Kyle Bondurant’s single.
“It was pretty big to get that run for Sauer,” Rohrbough said. “I have complete confidence in Grubbs for sure. I’m just as confident in Sauer as I was in Grubbs.”
Whittemore said he felt the same way. “When you throw a guy like Cole and you have as much or more confidence in the guys you have to fall to, that’s a special thing,” Whittemore said. “He (Grubbs) came in and did a great job.”
Sauer pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to pick up the save.
“He’s worked so hard and pitched in so many big games for us,” said Whittemore about Rohrbough, who threw 111 pitches.
Legnon threw 125 pitches and also received help from two sensational defensive plays by left fielder Kyle Roth.
In the second, Logan Parsley doubled and would have scored on Taylor Mieras’ drive if not for a spectacular over the shoulder catch by Roth. Pat Grennan followed with a sharp single to left that was hit too hard for Parsley to score and Legnon escaped the inning unscathed.
In the fourth, Brad Carlsen was robbed of extra bases by another spectacular over-the-shoulder catch from Roth. The play was huge because Ferguson followed with a single.
Bondurant, Ferguson and Carlsen all had two hits and Carlsen also doubled.
• Contact Charles Whisnand at email@example.com or 881-1214.