Wildcats play for the Promised Land
The Western Nevada Community College baseball team traveled over much of the country during the season for an chance like this.
WNCC will play in the district championships beginning today at Western Nebraska Community College. The Wildcats, Western Nebraska Community College and Central Arizona Community College will be playing in the district event with the winner advancing to the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association World Series, which begins on May 26 in Grand Junction, Colo.
The event could be a little confusing as Western Nebraska is also referred as WNCC. The three teams will all play each other in doublheaders today.
At noon, Western Nebraska will play Central Arizona. The Wildcats are scheduled to play Central Arizona at 3 p.m. and then Western Nebraska at 6.
If the teams end up 2-0, 1-1 and 0-2, the 0-2 team will be eliminated. The 2-0 and 1-1 teams would then play at 6 p.m. Friday.
If the 2-0 team wins, it advances to the World Series. If the 1-1 team wins, it would force another game at noon Saturday for the district title.
If the three teams end up 1-1, a coin flip will decide which team advances to Saturday’s championship game. The other two teams would play on Friday for the right to be in the title contest.
“You’ve got win three games before you lose two,” Wildcat coach D.J. Whittemore said.
The Wildcats may have caught a break in the tournament’s schedule. Central Arizona features a lock to be named to the All-American first team in pitcher Josh Spence, who has 15 complete games, eight shutouts and an earned run average below 1.
It would figure that Central Arizona will pitch Spence against Western Nebraska. But if for some reason if Central Arizona would wait to have Spence face the Wildcats, that would be an attractive matchup as he would go up against Cole Rohrbough, who has been nominated for All-American status.
No matter who throws when, Whittemore said Central Arizona should be considered the team to beat. “I think Central Arizona’s got to be the favorite in the tournament,” Whittemore said.
Central Arizona is coming off a regional in which it beat Cochise Community College for the title. Cochise ended the regular season ranked No. 4 in the nation and was ranked as high as No. 2. The Wildcats and Cochise split two games to begin the season in Henderson.
Central Arizona also has a team average above .300 – with woodbats – and every player in the lineup hits .290 or better. “They’ve got a great lineup,” Whittemore said.
But Western Nebraska also has an impressive lineup. In its two games to reach the district event, Western Nebraska scored 25 runs on 29 hits – with woodbats.
Now all three teams must adjust to aluminum bats. The Wildcats haven’t used aluminum bats since February.
The Wildcats’ practice time has been limited as well as this week they’ve had to take finals. But it’s also finals week for Western Nebraska.
“We don’t plan on making any excuses at this point of the season,” Whittemore said. “We plan on playing good baseball.”
Justin Garcia will start against Western Nebraska and Stephen Sauer will again be available out of the bullpen. Sauer finished up both wins over Community College of Southern Nevada in Henderson last week to help give the Wildcats the regional title.
Other top relievers available out of the bullpen are Dan Grubbs, Jeremy Joustra and Jake Bottari.
Whittemore said he couldn’t see a scenario in which the Wildcats would be fortunate enough to win both games today without having to use Sauer out of the bullpen. But even if Sauer is used today, he could start another game depending on how much he’s used. Joustra and Bottari are other candidates to start if needed depending on how much they’re used.
“We feel like the depth of our pitching staff is the strength of our team,” Whittemore said.
Whittemore said the Wildcats’ schedule should help them today. The Wildcats have also traveled to play two of California’s top teams in Santa Ana Community College and Orange Coast Community College and New Mexico Community College, currently ranked No. 1 in the nation. “We feel confident we can be competitive with anybody anywhere,” Whittemore said.
Notes: Whittemore said Logan Parsley, who injured his back last week against CCSN, should be ready to go.