COLLEGE: Potkay’s power surge puts WNC in finals
The drought is over for WNC first baseman Sean Potkay.
Potkay, who had gone homerless for the past 34 games, hit two solo homers and drove in the game-winning run with a bases-loaded walk to lead the top-seeded Wildcats to an 11-3 victory over No. 2 Salt Lake Friday in the Scenic West Athletic Conference semifinals Friday at John L. Harvey Field.
The win, the Wildcats’ 22nd straight, sends WNC into today’s noon championship game against Salt Lake, an 8-3 winner over College of Southern Idaho in the loser’s bracket final. If WNC loses at noon, a second game will follow 20 minutes later.
The two homers by Potkay gives him nine for the season, one better than teammate Connor Eppard.
“Sean has don a really good job dealing with perceived failures on his part and battling through it,” WNC coach D.J. Whittemore said. “He’s a stud.”
Potkay has the attitude that he should hit every ball hard, and there have been games where he has looked completely out of sync.
“For a couple of weeks I wasn’t too happy because I rolled over on a bunch of balls,” Potkay said. “I’ve peeled off some pitches, too.
“When I first came here I had a really long swing, but I worked with the coaches on that. I’ve shortened it up a lot.”
And, save for a couple of games here and there, Whittemore has stayed with Potkay, who has been hitting over .320 most of the season.
“Knowing the coach is going to stick with you is big,” Potkay said.
Potkay, who has been a solid glove guy at first, made a throwing error in the top of the first, leading to two unearned runs off WNC lefty Kody Gorden, who worked the first 7.1 innings before turning the ball over to Tyler Spencer.
“I thought the runner was closer (to first) than he actually was,” Potkay said.
Potkay got one of those runs back with a solo homer in the second off losing pitcher Tyson Memmott.
The Wildcats struck for three more in the third as Memmott gave up singles to Tanner Nielsen and Chris Woolley to put runners on first and second with no outs. Memmott walked Taylor Smart and then hit Eppard to force home a run. Potkay walked to force home a run and Beau Day hit a sacrifice fly before Memmott struck out the next two hitters.
Gorden, who retired seven straight, ran into trouble in the top of the fourth.
He hit Dominique Taylor and walked Mitch Manning. He struck out Kennedy Kincaide for the first out. Taylor stole third and scored on the play when McMeel’s throw was off target. Manning moved up to third on the play.
That set up with what was a huge play at the time.
Cory Raymond followed with a fly ball to left. Day made a nice strong throw, but Manning beat it home. The throw got by McMeel, and Gorden picked up the ball. With his teammates yelling at him, Gorden threw to third and the plate umpire ruled that Manning had left early which wiped out the run and ended the inning.
“That was big,” said Gorden, who allowed only four hits. “That runner isn’t that fast. Beau made a good throw home. There was no way he left on time. I was a little nervous at the start; more excited than nervous. I thought I had command of all four of my pitches.”
“Kody was magnificent today,” Whittemore said. “Biggest start of the year in the biggest game of the year.”
Salt Lake had a couple of runners reach second later in the game, but failed to score as Gorden and Spencer did a nice job on the hill.
Meanwhile, WNC added a solo homer by Potkay in the fifth to make it 5-3, and then added three in the sixth and three in the eighth. Zach Hendrix ended the game on the eight-run rule with a two-run double to make it 11-2.
The win leaves WNC in great shape. The Wildcats still have Andrew Woeck and Tim Peterson as possible championship-game starters. Chris Garrison will be available out of the bullpen along with Spencer, Anthony Consiglio, Brandon Jackson and Jason Wittwer.