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Wildcats sweep away Spartans

Wildcats sweep away Spartans

By Charles Whisnand

Appeal Sports Editor

Nothing can be taken for granted in the Scenic West Athletic Conference. Colorado Northwestern Community College pitcher Austin Padilla learned that painful lesson in game one of a twinbill on Saturday.

He went from walking off the field with what he thought was a two-run lead to being in a tie baseball game literally within a matter of seconds.

Keeping with that theme, Western Nevada College coach D.J. Whittemore also knew that even with Jordan Blanchard breezing through a one-hitter through five innings and holding a 3-0 lead, it was time to go to his bullpen.

But Whittemore had to watch Andrew Reid suffer through some bad luck and see a 3-0 lead evaporate into a 3-2 lead just in a matter of minutes. Then Whittemore watched Reid walk a tightrope to protect the lead.

In the end, the Wildcats were able to do something they haven’t been able to do all year: win one-run ballgames. WNC finished off a four-game sweep of CNCC, taking a doubleheader at John L. Harvey Field.

The Wildcats won the opener 4-3 and the nightcap 3-2. WNC had been 0-7 in one-run games this season coming into Saturday.

“We’re really excited to win one-run games,” Whittemore said.

WNC, now 15-14 overall and 9-7 in the SWAC, kept pace in the conference race as Salt Lake Community College and College of Southern Nevada ended up splitting their four-game series. Front runner Salt Lake is now 13-3 in the SWAC.

Padilla had kept WNC off balance, allowing just one unearned run through the first four innings. CNCC led 3-1 in the fifth inning with two outs and nobody on when Padilla got Davis Banks to pop up.

Padilla began walking off the field thinking the inning was over, but CNCC couldn’t make the play. On the next pitch, WNC’s Jerome Pena drove a fastball over the right field fence to tie the game 3-3.

“It was just a fastball right over the plate,” Pena said. “I was looking for it and I was looking for something to drive and I got the pitch.”

WNC took a 4-3 led in the sixth on back-to-back doubles by Lance Ray and Logan Parsley, chasing Padilla, who ended up being charged with one earned run in 51Ú3 innings.

Wildcats starting pitcher Kyle Farrell struggled with his command as he struck out five, but also walked five through four innings. The Wildcats took a 1-0 lead in the second after third baseman Travis Feiner walked.

Cliff Shepard then singled on a hit and run and Feiner came all the way home when the throw to third got away. But two walks and a bunt-single loaded the bases with no outs for the Spartans in the third.

Farrell got a groundball to Feiner, who threw home for the first out. But then Farrell walked Ryan Cole to force in a run. Feiner then couldn’t field a groundball cleanly and had to go to first for the out, allowing another run to score, giving CNCC a 2-1 lead.

In the fourth, another CNCC run came home to score after a walk and Dustin Loomis’ RBI single. It looked like Shepard had cut down the runner at home from right field when it appeared Chuck Howard had blocked the plate, but the runner was ruled safe and the Spartans had a 3-1 lead.

WNC was able to come back thanks to the effort of winning pitcher Jose Barajas, who allowed just one hit while striking out three over three scoreless innings.

“I felt good, just confident,” Barajas said. “I was pretty happy. I didn’t like giving up a hit.”

Barajas came off an academic-related suspension last week. “I’m getting back on track,” he said. “I can concentrate on baseball more.”

“It was fun. It showed our toughness,” Barajas also said about WNC being able to come back. “We kept battling the whole way. That’s what kept us in it.”

Barajas said he also likes pitching under pressure.

“It’s the best feeling coming into tough situations; I love doing it,” he said. “I just want to help out our team the best I can because that’s where they need me.”

Pena had two hits and Feiner added a hit in the opener.

In the nightcap, WNC took a 1-0 lead in the first on an error. Feiner hit an RBI double and Kyle Gutchewsky had a sacrifice fly to give the Wildcats a 3-0 lead in the third.

Blanchard was making his second start of the year and really his first legitimate start after his first start was cut to 22Ú3 innings last week due to a snow delay at Salt Lake.

“I felt like I had all my pitches going,” Blanchard said. “I just tried to get ahead of every batter.”

Blanchard battled tendinitis at the beginning of the year and it was originally planned that he would redshirt. But that changed when he had two outstanding efforts in intrasquad scrimmages.

“I was getting better facing our hitters and facing other hitters,” Blanchard said. “It turned out for the best.”

Whittemore said it’s tempting to keep Blanchard in the bullpen considering his effort in which he struck out nine over 52Ú3 innings against College of Southern Idaho, but Whittemore made the decision to name Blanchard as the fourth starter on Friday morning and he’s sticking to that choice.

“It’s easy to name him the fourth starter,” Whittemore said. “It’s difficult to give up a chance to use him out of the bullpen. I would say we’re going to probably go ahead and name him the fourth starter.”

Reid came on in the sixth and was the victim of an infield single and an error that led to Aaron Converse’s two-run single that closed WNC’s lead to 3-2. CNCC eventually got runners to first and third with one out, but Reid struck out the next two hitters to preserve the lead.

“Reid pitched fine,” Whittemore said.

Javy Perez retired the side in order in the seventh, striking out one, to pick up the save. Feiner had two hits, Howard and Brett Moravec both doubled and Ray, Parsley and Shepard each added a hit.