COLLEGE: WNC unable to move on
Members of the Western Nevada baseball team were scattered in and around the third-base dugout, most sitting in stunned silence. Some cried and some were able to hold back tears.
Gone was the 22-game win streak. Ditto for the chance to play in the Western District Tournament next weekend in Arizona.
Salt Lake City, which was ranked No. 1 in the country for part of the season, won the Scenic West Athletic Conference Tournament by knocking off the undefeated Wildcats twice on Saturday, 18-9 and 2-0, at John L. Harvey Field.
The Wildcats finished the season 46-12. Expectations are always high at WNC, and this year’s team had its eye on another World Series trip.
“I can’t say it’s a failure,” said sophomore Brooks Klein. “It’s heartbreaking. It’s not a failure when you battle like we did all season.”
“It’s very disappointing,” coach D.J. Whittemore said. “It doesn’t change the way I feel about this team. I feel great about being surrounded by so many great people, players and coaches.”
If ESPN had been televising the (second) championship game, it would have been dubbed an “Instant Classic.”
Both WNC’s Andrew Woeck and Salt Lake’s Adam Gunn, who was named the tourney MVP, had no-hitters through six innings. Woeck, making his first appearance of the tournament, allowed just three baserunners in that span. Gunn was almost as good, allowing seven runners (two on errors) to reach base.
WNC put up a serious threat in the sixth after two outs.
Taylor Smart reached on an error by shortstop Eddy Alvarez. After Smart stole second, Connor Eppard hit a groundball to Alvarez, who threw high to first. First baseman Scott Manning came off the bag and snared the throw which kept Smart at third. Sean Potkay walked to load the bases, but Klein’s sharply hit ball to short was turned into a force out by Alvarez.
The Bruins put up a serious threat themselves in the seventh.
Dominique Taylor singled and then stole second and third. Kennedy Kincade walked, and that’s when things got interesting. Derrick Whitney came on to pinch-hit for Manning.
Whittemore called time and brought in Chris Garrison to replace Woeck, who had allowed just Taylor’s single.
Whittemore brought Eppard in from centerfield and positioned him between the mound and first base, figuring that a bunt was on. After getting a strike on Whitney, Eppard moved over between third and short, giving WNC five infielders. Whitney struck out and then Garrison retired the next hitter to get out of the jam.
“We’ve used that before,” Whittemore said of the positioning of Eppard. “Kevin Edwards (former WNC assistant) came up with that. I give him the credit.”
WNC put runners on first and third with two outs in the seventh against, but Woolley’s hard-hit liner was caught by Whitney at first base.
Salt Lake snapped the scoreless tie in the eighth on run-scoring hits by Sean Moysh and Taylor. The damage might have been more had it not been for Donald Glover’s catch up against the fence in left field.
A.J. Carman came on for Gunn in the bottom of the eighth and shut down the Wildcats in the final two innings.
It was a tough no decision for Woeck, who fanned five and walked three.
“Both of us came out strong,” Woeck said. “I threw my fastball well; was able to locate it real well. I was able to keep them off balance with the change and cutter.”
“Andrew was phenomenal today,” Whittemore said. “It was a really gutty effort.”
The Bruins got to the second game by pounding WNC 18-9 in the first championship game.
Salt Lake scored 10 in the second off, seven off starter Tim Peterson and three off Brandon Jackson. Kincade had a two-run double and Braden Anderson had a two-run single.
“They hit the ball where we weren’t standing,” Whittemore said, stating the obvious. “They have a good-hitting club. They hit the ball well all year.”
Salt Lake added four in the third to make it 14-0, but WNC gave the home fans something to cheer about by exploding for eight runs in the bottom of the fourth. Sean Potkay had a two-run single and Klein ripped a two-run homer to key the surge which saw 13 players come to the plate.
“I thought we had a chance,” Klein said. “I have a lot of confidence in our guys.”
“Absolutely I thought we were back in the game,” Whittemore said. “We play every pitch and our guys never gave up and kept battling like they have all season.”
After the eight-run outburst , WNC managed just a run and four hits over the final five innings.