South Mountain sends Western Nevada home
PHOENIX — For the second time in a little more than 24 hours, South Mountain Community College did what no other team in the West could do to the Western Nevada College Wildcats during the 2014 baseball season: win in abbreviated fashion.
The Cougars ousted the Wildcats from the Western District Tournament, 9-1, in seven innings on Friday in Phoenix.
The host Cougars scored five runs in the seventh inning on a pair of two-run singles to deliver the knockout blow to WNC, which staved off elimination with an 8-2 victory over Trinidad State on Friday morning.
South Mountain opened the tournament on Thursday by rallying for a 16-8 seven-inning victory over WNC.
The Cougars will meet Cochise of Douglas, Ariz., in Saturday’s championship game. Cochise defeated South Mountain, 13-3, in five innings on Friday afternoon.
WNC took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly by Christian Stolo, but the Wildcat bats went quiet after that because of a dominant pitching performance by Cody Lawson.
Lawson pitched the distance for the Cougars, throwing a two-hitter. He struck out five and walked one.
Melvin Gray’s three-run triple off Rayne Raven highlighted South Mountain’s four-run fourth inning.
The Wildcats threatened in the sixth inning when Sam Hall singled and Jake Bennett walked with no outs. They moved up a base on a Connor Klein bunt. But Lawson retired Stolo on a strikeout and Joey Crunkilton’s line drive was snared by third baseman Jeff Carter, preserving South Mountain’s 4-1 lead.
Carter and Ethan Springston socked two-RBI base hits in the seventh, the latter ending the game.
Raven started for the Wildcats, giving up five hits and four runs. Raven fanned five and walked two. He was followed by Max Karnos, who tossed the first two innings of the Wildcats’ victory against Trinidad State.
Karnos recorded a couple of scoreless innings before the Cougars started connecting off him. He gave up nine hits, five walks and five earned runs.
Bennett had the only other hit off Lawson, a double in the fourth inning. Klein moved him to third base on a groundout to the right side, and Stolo followed with a sacrifice fly.
WNC 8, Cochise 2
Dusting themselves off after their worst loss of the season, the Wildcats showed why they are still playing baseball in the middle of May.
Spenser Dorsey belted a two-run homer and the Wildcats rapped out eight hits in the first three innings en route to a victory over Trinidad State of Trinidad, Colo.
“A great job by our team of bouncing back, which they’ve done all year,” WNC coach D.J. Whittemore said. “It was an all-around team effort. We’ve got to win one game tonight, so we’re really not thinking at all about tomorrow.”
WNC also benefitted from the long relief effort by freshman Connor Zwetsch, who pitched a season-high seven innings and allowed just two runs. Zwetsch (3-0) came into the postseason game with 24 2/3 innings of work in 15 appearances.
Zwetsch’s previous high this season was three innings.
“He was outstanding and came up clutch for us,” Whittemore said.
After being dealt its only mercy-rule defeat of the season by South Mountain on Thursday 16-8, the Wildcats didn’t let that performance have a lingering effect.
The Wildcats’ bats rattled from the get-go. In WNC’s two-run first inning, there were four hits, including doubles by Crunkilton and Alex Fife.
WNC tacked on a third run in the second inning without the benefit of a hit. Trojans sophomore right-hander Erik Bussey issued a walk to Tony Roque, who then stole second base. Roque advanced to third on a Jake Bennett groundout and scored on a Klein squeeze bunt down the first-base line.
Deciding to preserve his starting pitchers, Whittemore pulled Karnos after his second inning on the mound. Zwetsch came in from the bullpen to strike out the first hitter he faced. Trinidad State delivered its first hit in the inning on Julien Belanger’s base hit. Belanger eventually came home on a third-strike wild pitch by Zwetsch. However, a defensive gem by third baseman Austin Andrews for the third out prevented the Trojans from putting together a bigger scoring threat.
The Wildcats kept the pressure on Trinidad State in the third. A walk to Alex Fife and a single by Conor Harber put runners on the corners. Harber stole second base and a catcher’s throwing error allowed Fife to score the Wildcats’ fourth run and Harber to take third.
Dorsey followed with a two-run homer over the left-field fence for a 6-0 lead.
WNC finished the season 40-18.