Wildcats bow out of JUCO World Series
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – In as about as a surreal moment as one could ever find, Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” was blaring over the loud speaker at Sulplizio Field after the game.
No song could have been more appropriate for the Western Nevada Community College baseball team, and this after the team was eliminated in an 11-1 loss to New Mexico Junior College in the JUCO World Series on Wednesday. The game was called due to the 10-run rule when New Mexico made it 11-1 in the fifth inning.
But the Wildcats (41-24-2) were still able to focus on where they had come, making it to the World Series in just the second year of their existence. And, they were also able to make it to Grand Junction during a season that had plenty of highs and lows.
There was really no sadness after Wednesday’s game. OK maybe a little sadness.
“To be honest I don’t even know,” said sophomore Kyle Bondurant on what his thoughts were after the game.
Then after he collected his thoughts, Bondurant said, “You know happiness, sadness. It’s been a roller coaster. We’ve had our tops and bottoms.”
It was also a bittersweet moment for sophomore Cole Rohrbough, who WNCC had hoped would pitch on Thursday.
“It is for sure,” said Rohrbough about it being sad that his time as a Wildcat had come to an end. “But at the same time it’s a really great moment.
“Where we came from the second year to where we are now, there’s nothing to hang your head about. I’m not going to remember anything but anything good.”
WNCC coach D.J. Whittemore echoed Rohrbough’s thoughts.
“I’m extremely proud of these guys,” Whitemore said. “I’ll never be able to replace this group of sophomores.
“I’m honored just to be around these guys. I’m having a lot of trouble being sad. To go from 0 to World Series in two years is just spectacular.”
On Wednesday, Murphy’s Law took over to end WNCC’s season.
Lukas Thomason started for New Mexico, but walked the first three batters he faced – Bondurant, Cliff Shepard and Andrew Reid – to load the bases with no outs.
That was enough to chase Thomason as J.R. Robinson came on. Robinson picked up right from where he left off on Monday when he shut down WNCC after it had taken an 8-1 lead. The Wildcats won 8-4, but Robinson struck out six over the last 3.2 innings. He struck out eight over five innings on Wednesday, giving him 14 strikeouts in 8.2 innings against WNCC.
But who knows what would have happened if Andrew Ferguson’s hard-hit ball hadn’t gone right back to Robinson. A foot either way to the left or right and WNCC could have a 2-0 lead with runners at first and third and no outs.
Instead, Robinson turned a 1-2-3 double play. Robinson then got a strikeout to end the inning. “Baseball is a funny game,” said Whittemore, who added he was pleased with Ferguson’s at bat. “It can change on one swing of the bat.”
More bad breaks awaited WNCC starter Josh Brink and the Wildcats in the bottom of the first. Brink issued a leadoff walk to Adalberto Santos, but struck out the next batter. Brink then got Coty Wilson to hit a groundball to the right side.
But Santos was running and the ball went through the hole vacated by second baseman Kevin Schlange. So instead of an inning-ending double play, there were runners at first and third with one out. Schlange had come into the game for Logan Parsley, who had the stomach flu.
Brian Cavazos-Galvan followed with a bloop single that made it 1-0. Another run scored on a wild pitch and an RBI single by Luis Cruz made it 3-0.
WNCC closed to within 3-1 in the second when Chuck Howard walked, Pat Grennan singled and Bondurant followed with an RBI single. But New Mexico scored two runs without a hit to take a 5-1 lead in the bottom of the second, chasing Brink in the process.
New Mexico extended its lead to 8-1 in the third as Everett Evans capped the rally with a two-run home run.
The Thunderbirds went up 10-1 in the fifth on Wilson’s two-run shot. Christian Figueroa and Evans singled to give New Mexico runners at first and third with no outs.
T.J. Wohlever came into the game and struck out the first batter he faced. Pedro Gomez followed with a flyball to left field and Grennan’s throw home wasn’t in time as Figueroa scored to give New Mexico an 11-1 lead and end the game.
• Sports editor Charles Whisnand can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling )775) 881-1214