Golden Eagles sweep Wildcats | NevadaAppeal.com

Golden Eagles sweep Wildcats

Golden Eagles sweep Wildcats

By Charles Whisnand

Appeal Sports Editor

This is the time when the Western Nevada College baseball team – even though it will be difficult – must keep its eye on the big picture. But goodness, gracious sakes alive was Saturday painful.

WNC was swept in a doubleheader on Saturday against College of Southern Idaho at John L. Harvey Field, losing the opener 3-1 and then letting the nightcap slip away when the Golden Eagles scored two unearned runs in the seventh inning for a 4-3 win.

The Wildcats (24-17 overall, 18-10 in the Scenic West Athletic Conference) still came away with a split in the four-game series, but there was no denying it was a disappointment after WNC won the first two games on Friday.

And while the Wildcats’ effort to catch Salt Lake Community College for the SWAC regular season championship likely took a major hit, WNC came out of the weekend no worse than tied for second in the SWAC standings.

Coming into Saturday, Salt Lake was 21-5 after sweeping College of Eastern Utah on Friday. WNC received help in the standings after College of Southern Nevada split with Colorado Northwestern Community College on Friday. CSN was 16-10 going into Saturday.

It should be noted that the top two seeds in the postseason receive first round byes. And it should also be noted that the regular season champion has failed to win the postseason title for six straight years.

But surely this still isn’t the way the Wildcats wanted to go into their key series at home this coming weekend against Salt Lake. And after blowing Saturday’s nightcap, the Wildcats fell to 3-9 in one-run games.

“I’m ready,” said WNC coach D.J. Whittemore about moving past Saturday’s disappointment. “You give the credit to Southern Idaho. They didn’t give up, they didn’t quit.”

Jordan Blanchard, who had pitched two scoreless innings, was protecting a 3-2 lead in the seventh when Jed Hanson singled and Tyler Chism walked to give the Golden Eagles runners at first and second with no outs.

Blanchard struck out Travis Reynolds on a pitch in the dirt, but even though Darren Bruhns blocked the pitch, the ball got away far enough for the runners to advance. Blanchard, though, got a groundball to Davis Banks at second and Banks threw a perfect strike to Bruhns to nail Hanson at the plate. But Bruhns dropped the ball, making the tag and Hanson scored to tie the game 3-3.

Cameron Cushing then hit a slow roller to Kyle Gutchewsky at shortstop and was able to beat out the double play attempt, allowing Chism to score the go-ahead run.

Bruhns looked like he was going to be a hero in a comeback win as his RBI double tied the game 2-2 in the fifth. And Whittemore was quick to take the blame for the loss.

“I’d take more responsibility than anything, than the players,” Whittemore said. “I don’t have any fault for anybody. I think they played hard and they did everything we asked them to do. I think our guys played very hard physically and emotionally.”

Jose Barajas started for WNC and allowed Hanson’s two-run double in the fourth to give CSI a 2-0 lead. Brian Barnett singled and scored on Cliff Shepard’s double in the bottom of the fourth to cut the deficit to 2-1.

But CSI got what it needed out of Sam Armstrong, who pitched four strong innings to give the game to Jake Draeger, who came in with a 1.36 earned run average. WNC, however, was able to come back against Draeger to take the lead.

After Travis Feiner doubled, Bruhns hit his RBI double in the fifth to tie it. Then in the sixth, Lance Ray doubled, chasing Draeger. Jerome Pena then hit an RBI single off of Taylor Mangum to give WNC a 3-2 lead.

Mangum, though, went on to pitch a scoreless seventh for the win. Whittemore was second guessing himself after Pena single because there were no outs.

But instead of having Shepard bunt, he let Shepard hit away and he was caught looking on a 2-2 pitch on a questionable call on a ball that appeared to be low and inside.

Whittemore received another chance to bunt in the seventh when Davis Banks led off with a single. He opted to hit and run and Gutchewsky hit the ball well, but lined out to right.

“I was banking on us getting a fastball to hit and we got it,” Whittemore said. “He just hit it right at him.”

Barajas ended up striking out six through four innings while Blanchard struck out three.

Justin Smith pitched a complete game for the win in the opener, striking out eight. “Obviously the Smith kid lived up to his billing,” Whittemore said. “I think he’s one of the best in the conference.”

Chism hit a two-run home run off of Kyle Farrell in the second to give CSI a 2-0 lead. In the third, Mike Long doubled, Brett Moravec waked and Lance Ray singled to load the bases.

Chuck Howard hit a shot to left center to score Long, but centerfielder Zach Vliestra nailed Moravec trying to score to end the inning.

Farrell ended up allowing two earned runs in 4 2/3 innings. In the fifth, Reynolds walked, went to second on a wild pitch, to third on a passed ball and scored on an error to make it 3-1.

Josh Creveling came on and pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings. Shepard had two hits to lead WNC.

• Contact Charles Whisnand at cwhisnand@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1281.