Western Nevada struggles in opener, fall to Salt Lake
For the Nevada Appeal
LAS VEGAS – Good pitching and timely hitting are usually the key to a deep run in any baseball tournament. On Thursday, Western Nevada struggled with both.
With starting pitcher Kramer Champlin struggling to find the zone early on and 13 stranded baserunners, the Wildcats fell 6-3 to Salt Lake in their first game of the Region XVIII baseball tournament.
“We actually had a lot of quality at-bats, a really good approach offensively,” said WNC coach D.J. Whittemore. “We made a couple mistakes on the mound, a couple mistakes on the field and they all came back to bite us.
“We didn’t play good and you have to play good to beat good teams. You can’t leave runners on, can’t make errors and you can’t walk the nine hitter. We made some mistakes, but the task ahead of us is difficult, but it’s as simple as winning the next game.”
WNC had a prime opportunity to gain control of the game when it tied it up at 3-3 in the sixth inning on a Spencer Ofelt RBI single. Two batters later, Eric Maupin, who was 1-for-2 at the time with two hard-hit balls, came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. He dribbled a ball to the left side into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.
“They got a few hits and we didn’t,” Maupin said. “It’s unfortunate that it happened tonight, this time of the year, but good thing it’s a double-elimination tournament.
“Just sometimes it goes that way, you hit the ball hard and you don’t get the credit for it. You just kind of got to deal with that. Usually it pays off, you get a little dribbler through the hole, but it didn’t happen for us tonight.”
Champlin couldn’t navigate a difficult and tight strike zone early on as the Scenic West Athletic Conference co-Pitcher of the Year faced 14 batters through three innings and recorded just one strikeout in those innings. He gave up two runs on a Duncan Blades double in the third.
He regained his composure in the next two innings, but the defense didn’t aid him. It committed errors in the third and sixth innings, with the latter allowing Salt Lake to take a short-lived 3-2 lead.
Champlin didn’t return for the seventh inning, giving way to freshman Tim Peterson. But another defensive error and a two-run RBI single by Zackary Swasey in the inning put the game away.
“We’ve got a lot of faith in our bullpen, it’s not just our starters who keep us in the game,” Maupin said. “(Peterson) came out and did a good job, but a couple of bad bounces and that’s just how it went.”
Tyson Littlewood added a solo home run in the ninth for Salt Lake.
Peterson took the loss after giving up four hits and striking out five.
Champlin earned a no-decision as he gave up three runs, four hits, walked two and struck out four.
Brett Nathan picked up the win for Salt Lake, who will face top-seeded Southern Nevada at 1 p.m. today. Michael Edstrom got the save.
WNC will play Southern Idaho, who lost to CSN 9-2 and beat Colorado Northwestern 8-0 to advance in the loser’s bracket, at 4 p.m. today in an elimination game. Southern Idaho led the regular season series 5-3 over WNC and took three out of four games just three weeks ago at Skip Walker Field.
“(We need to) stay in there, keep fighting, do anything we can,” Maupin said. “Our backs are up against the wall and we need to claw our way out.”