‘Marshall’ law rules for WNC
‘Marshall’ law rules for WNC
By Charles Whisnand
Appeal Sports Editor
A week ago, the Western Nevada College baseball team walked off the field having been swept in a doubleheader by College of Southern Idaho, thinking it had played itself out of the race for the Scenic West Athletic Conference regular season title.
Now, not only are the Wildcats back in the race, they’ve got a legitimate shot to win their second title in three years.
WNC got back into the race by completing a four-game sweep of first place Salt Lake Community College, taking both ends of a doubleheader on Saturday at John L. Harvey Field. In the opener, Kyle Farrell outdueled Adam Gunn as WNC won 1-0 and then the Wildcats hung on for a 10-8 win in the nightcap.
“Last weekend we were down,” WNC coach D.J. Whittemore said. “(But) that’s why I love baseball. That’s why we play. You can go from being the goat to being the hero.”
And the Wildcats had plenty of contributors and as Whittemore put it, “some unlikely heroes.”
Among those unlikely heroes was Marshall Kennebrew, who has played sparingly this season, but over the weekend with 6-for-13 with three doubles and a home run.
So with the sweep, WNC (22-10 in conference, 28-17 overall) now trails Salt Lake (23-9) by one game in the standings. And while nothing can be taken for granted, the schedule does favor the Wildcats.
WNC finishes the season at Colorado Northwestern Community College and at home against College of Eastern Utah while Salt Lake still has to play College of Southern Nevada.
The Wildcats also own the tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed if they and the Bruins finished tied for first as WNC won the season series against Salt Lake 5-3. The No. 1 seed will host the conference postseason tournament.
“To sweep the first-place team, we get a chance to win the whole thing now,” said Travis Feiner, another one of those players, who played a key role offensively and defensively throughout the weekend.
In Saturday’s sweep, WNC gave Gunn and Payton Rentmeister their first conference losses of the season, although it took Farrell’s complete game to beat Gunn in the opener.
Farrell pitched a five-hitter, striking out six and walking one. “I knew coming into the game that he’s a real good pitcher,” said Farrell about Gunn.
“I knew that I was going to have to battle through the whole game to get the win. The team did a great job defensively behind me and Chuck (Howard) called a great game. I knew I was going to have to throw a lot of strikes and command my fastball and let the defense do what they’ve done all year and that’s make plays.”
In the second, Salt Lake loaded the bases with one out, but Farrell got a groundball to Lance Ray at first, who threw home for the out. Farrell then got another groundout to end the inning.
In the bottom of the second, Logan Parsley singled, Cliff Shepard walked and Howard hit an RBI single to make it 1-0. Shepard and Howard then advanced to second and third with one out on Andrew Reid’s sacrifice bunt, but Gunn escaped the jam with a strikeout and a grounder.
WNC was the victim of bad luck in the fifth when Reid walked and Feiner singled to give the Wildcats runners at first and second with no outs. Instead of having Kyle Gutchewsky bunt, Whittemore opted for the hit and run.
Gutchewsky hit the ball right on the nose but right at right fielder Cameron Smith and Smith began a triple play.
In the seventh, Felix Segovia singled with one out. Brandon Keller then reached on a bunt single, but pinch runner Shay Star took too wide of a turn around second and Feiner nailed him.
Gutchewsky then made a lunging catch of Kyle Bubak’s line drive at short to end the game. Pena and Brian Barnett each added a hit for WNC.
In the nightcap, WNC jumped on Rentmeister for five runs in the first as Howard and Parsley had RBI singles and Feiner and Davis Banks each had RBI doubles during the rally. Barnett walked and Pena singled to chase Rentmeister in the second in favor of Preston Grimes, one of the conference’s top relievers. Kennebrew hit a two-run single off of Rentmeister to give WNC a 7-1 lead.
But Salt Lake kept fighting back against Jordan Blanchard. Scott Manning’s RBI triple and Josh Chevalier’s RBI single made it 7-3 in the third. Feiner answered with a home run that made it 8-3 in the bottom of the third, hitting a shot up into the wind out to left.
“I was looking for that pitch and I got it,” Feiner said. “I hit it hard. The wind probably helped me out a little bit. It felt good.”
The Bruins, though, wouldn’t go away as Smith homered to begin a four-run rally in the fourth. Bubak’s RBI single chased Blanchard in favor of Reid.
Reid got a comebacker for the first out, but then gave up Ryan Bernal’s RBI single. Reid got what should have been an inning-ending double play groundball to Ray near the first base bag. But Ray failed to touch first and although he threw to second for the force, a run scored on a fielder’s choice to bring Salt Lake to within 8-7.
Kennebrew’s homer in the fourth made it 9-7. Gutchewsky doubled and scored on Barnett’s single to make it 10-7 in the fifth.
After pitching two scoreless innings for the win, Reid gave way to Jose Barajas in the sixth, but Barajas ran into trouble in the seventh.
Manning, Chevalier and Segovia all opened the inning with singles to make it 10-8. But then Barajas got a double play and a strikeout to end it.
Kennebrew went 3-for-3 as he also doubled and Feiner and Gutchewsky each had two hits.
Notes: With the 1-0 win in the opener, WNC improved to 5-9 in one-run games…With the strong winds blowing in from right center field throughout the weekend, WNC made two decisions to help its cause. Instead of being in the third base dugout as they normally are, the Wildcats moved to the first base dugout for the weekend, so the wind would be coming into the Bruins dugout. Also after the first game of the series, Pena, even though he has a stronger arm, was moved from right to left and Barnett moved from left to right as the Wildcats figured Pena would receive more chances with the wind blowing out to left.