Local roundup: WNC has aces up its sleeve for sweep
After beating the ace of Western Nevada College’s pitching staff on Friday, Arizona Western learned a day later that the Wildcats have a few more aces up their sleeves.
WNC sophomore right-hander Josh Mill pitched a three-hitter into the sixth inning as the Wildcats beat the Matadors of Yuma, Ariz., 3-2, in the opening game of a doubleheader Saturday at John L. Harvey Field in Carson City. Sophomore left-hander Chase Kaplan picked up where Mill left off by handcuffing the Matadors on five hits as the Wildcats completed the sweep with an 8-1 victory.
“I had a really good command of all of my pitches today,” said Mill who has a five-pitch arsenal. “That has been my weak point the last couple of outings; I’ve only had a couple of pitches working.
“It was very effective keeping them off-balance today, especially some of their bigger guys.”
With a cadre of pro scouts looking on, Kaplan (3-0) pitched his first complete game of the season.
“I always like finishing what I start and coach said we’re going to keep you out there until you can’t do the job,” Kaplan said.
Kaplan struck out two Matadors, but only walked one hitter.
“It was a great defensive day,” Kaplan said. “My defense made almost every play for me.”
In the opener, Mill (2-0) escaped a no-out, bases-loaded jam in the second inning without a run scoring, then locked in to frustrate the Matador hitters. He struck out six and walked four.
“I’ve been working on a new cutter grip, and it seems to be getting guys out, so we stuck with that and the slider a majority of the game, and it helped me get ahead of a lot of guys,” Mill said.
WNC (7-4) executed a two-out rally to score first in the opening frame. Both DJ Peters and Brogan Secrist lined two-out, run-scoring doubles to put the Wildcats ahead 2-0. More importantly, they stroked the run-producing hits off Matador starter Thomas Shroder with two-strike counts.
Mill worked out of a potential game-turning jam in the second inning. The right-hander loaded the bases, starting the frame with two walks and a hit batsman. Mill addressed the challenge with a pair of strikeouts sandwiched around a force out, where Mill came home to catcher Sam Salyers to retire Judah Zickafoose.
“I was struggling and (catcher) Sammy came out to talk to me and said, ‘Just trust me here,’ “ Mill said. “We threw nothing but sliders and cutters the whole time, and they weren’t hitting them. That got me out of that inning, and that was huge.”
WNC coach D.J. Whittemore said that Mill’s escape act in the second keyed the victory.
“Anytime that you get out of bases loaded and no outs, that is big momentum there,” Whittemore said. “Josh capitalized on it and started pitching ahead in the count and made a lot of quality pitches to a really good offensive team.”
Chandler Barkdull delivered the Wildcats’ third two-strike, run-producing hit in the second inning. Following a walk to Salyers and a base hit by Casey Cornwell, Barkdull hit a line-hugging grounder to right, scoring Salyers from second base.
Peters missed a chance to blow it open with the bases loaded. The center fielder just got under Shroder’s opening pitch and flied out to right for the third out of the frame.
Shroder’s stint on the mound ended in the third when he walked the first three hitters. Reliever Humberto Montiel stranded two baserunners, giving WNC six runners left on base through the third.
Mill didn’t allow a hit until Austin Maltby lifted a double to left field with one out in the fourth. Zach Boehler cashed in the baserunner with a two-out double to left, cutting the Matadors’ deficit to 3-1.
“Josh did a phenomenal job today,” Salyers said. “We really focused on cutter, slider. A lot of that had to do with watching their team hit yesterday and how their swings were. I told Josh before the game started that if we needed to, we were going to go straight to cutter, slider hard because I didn’t think they would be able to hit it.”
In the sixth, a leadoff homer off the bat of Kainalu Pitory trimmed WNC’s lead to 3-2. Reaching his pitch count limit, Mill was removed after striking out Maltby.
Reliever Ty Fox, making his third appearance, fell behind Kristian Gonzalez 2-0 but got him to hit a sharp grounder to third baseman Chad Bell. With Zickafoose breaking toward the plate, Bell was able to get the Matador in a rundown, with shortstop Cornwell completing the tag just in front of the plate. Gonzalez advanced to second on the rundown, but Fox stranded him by getting Boehler to ground out to first baseman Daniel Nist.
“That felt good to get that second out. I just trusted my defense on that one,” Fox said.
Fox pounded the strike zone in the seventh, setting down the Matadors in order for his second save.
“That’s what I really come in to the game to do — mix up pitches right away and do what the coaches tell me to do,” Fox said.
Through three innings, Kaplan allowed just one hit, while the Wildcats scratched out a second-inning run. Bradley Lewis’ double to center plated Tim Lichty with the first run.
Arizona Western (7-5) knotted the score at 1 in the fourth on a RBI double by Zach Boehler.
“Once they adjusted to my fastball, they started hitting things around a little bit,” Kaplan said. “I had to rely on my off-speed pitches, but it felt very comfortable. It’s nice to have that second pitch to go to.”
WNC, however, responded with a go-ahead score in the fourth, triggered by hustle of Lewis. With Lewis charging down the first-base line on a groundball to third, Brody Kato threw wide of first, allowing Lewis to advance to second base.
“As soon I hit the ball, I hustle as hard as I can and see if I can draw a bad throw or beat a throw,” Lewis said. “It was a bad throw and I took advantage of it.”
The Matadors compounded that error with another one. Angela fired a pickoff attempt into center field, enabling Lewis to go to third base. Cornwell followed with a sacrifice fly, putting WNC in front for good, 2-1.
The Wildcats broke it open with a four-run fifth inning. All four runs scored on two-out hits. A two-run double by Cornwell and run-scoring base hits by Lewis and Yagi highlighted the rally.
After being limited to five hits in the opener, Whittemore shuffled his lineup in game two, and the changes produced more offense. Lewis had three hits, two runs scored and four RBI in his first start of the series.
“It was a really good day,” Lewis said. “I just keep practicing and working hard and when I get my opportunity, I’ll come out and do what I can.”
Lewis wasn’t alone in contributions off the bench. Justin Mannens, hitting in the leadoff spot normally occupied by Barkdull, went 4 for 4, including a triple. Cornwell, moving up to sixth in the batting order, knocked in three runs. Peters was intentionally walked twice prior to hitting a double and scoring arun in the sixth.
The teams conclude their four-game series with an 11 a.m. matchup Sunday.
VARSITY GIRLS BASKETBALL
Spring Creek stops Dayton
ELKO — Spring Creek outscored Dayton 48-26 over the final three periods to grab a 54-36 victory Saturday afternoon in the regular-season finale for both schools.
Dayton led 10-6 after one period, but it was downhill after that.
“We did very well working the ball around,” coach Kelly Frantz said. “I was pleased how hard we played until the final buzzer. Everyone who played today did their job and we really grew this season. The girls improved tremendously.”
Angela Sikora capped her career with 13 points and 15 rebounds. Aleea McGill-Howe scored 10 and Kristina Mason added nine.
“Angela will be missed greatly,” Frantz said. “I know great things are in store for her. She really stepped up this season, and was a huge asset on both sides of the ball.”
Sierra Lutheran wins thriller
Grace Bonafede and Clare Davison converted four free throws in the final minute Saturday night as Sierra Lutheran rallied to win its regular season-ending game at home against Coleville 29-28.
Bonafede sank a pair of shots from the line to give the Falcons a 27-26 lead with 35.7 seconds left to play and Davison added two more with 23.7 seconds left to provide some extra cushion in a Western Division IV game that saw five lead changes in the final 10 minutes.
Sierra Lutheran (12-4 league, 17-8 overall) clinched second-place with the win and will advance to the region tournament for the first time in school history next week.
Coleville finished its season 9-7 in league, 13-10 overall. The Falcons needed overtime before they won 21-20 at Coleville on Jan. 20.
Brynna Hansen, Bonafede and Davison finished with six points each to lead the Falcons offensively. Kirsten Iverson also scored five, including a 3-pointer to beat the halftime buzzer to give the Falcons a 17-12 lead. Iverson, a freshman, also grabbed 11 rebounds.
Shaylor McCann led Coleville with 10 points, including a pair of free throws that made it 29-28 with 14.1 seconds left to play.
VARSITY BOYS BASKETBALL
Muckers lose twice
VIRGINIA CITY — Virginia City dropped a 66-42 decision to Whittell Saturday night.
Tristan Steele and Colt Hess led the scoring with 11.
On Friday, VC dropped a road game at Hawthorne, 49-38. Hess and Hugh Fonzo led the way with 11 and 10, respectively.
Dut Devils finish with loss
ELKO — The Dust Devils, playing once again without Josh Riders, lost its season-finale, 57-33 to Spring Creek on Saturday.
JJ Ply led the way with 17 points, six rebounds and three blocks. Trevor Burrows added six points.
Sierra Lutheran girls unbeaten
Sierra Lutheran finished its league season unbeaten and with an overall record of 17-3 after beating Coleville 22-20. Lena Richardson scored eight points for Sierra Lutheran.