Wildcats sweep conference leader, gain confidence
The Wildcats needed some confidence after dropping a series two weeks ago and splitting another last weekend to a team that won only two conference games on the year prior. And with Scenic West Athletic Conference leading Salt Lake in town, the Western Nevada College baseball team didn’t look like it would get any relief.
But two days and four games later, the Wildcats are renewed after they completed a sweep of the Bruins on Saturday with a pair of wins, 5-4 and 5-1, at John L. Harvey Field. The feat was impressive considering they dropped 3-of-4 games to Southern Nevada and split the series with Southern Idaho.
“We had a tough week, we really did,” WNC coach D.J. Whittemore said. “There was a lot of doubt individually and collectively and it was really a complement to the character of the team to be able to do what they did. That was special.”
The Wildcats won the first two games of the series, 3-1 and 9-8, Friday. They moved to 10-6 in conference and 22-9 overall, good for third in the conference. Salt Lake dropped to 11-4 in conference play and 20-8 overall. The Wildcats head back on the road for a four-game series with Colorado Northwestern, which begins on Friday.
The Wildcats trailed 3-0 going into the bottom of the sixth in the first game of the day, but tacked on four runs thanks to a three-run home run by Pat McMeel and solo shot from Sean Dwyer.
“Sean hadn’t started a game since he homered in Southern California (Feb. 18 vs. Fullerton Junior College), shows you how much I know,” Whittemore joked.
The Bruins tied the game back up in the top of the seventh when Kyle Bilbrey hit an RBI single up the middle to score Adam Kelsch. Kody Gorden came in for relief for the Wildcats to get the final out of the inning and stranded two runners.
Salt Lake aided WNC in the bottom of the inning with a catcher interfernce call that put leadoff hitter Trevor Goff on base. Jay Skilton moved him over with a sacrifice bunt. Two of the next three batters walked to load the bases to give McMeel another chance to drive in a run. The 6-foot, 213-pound catcher found his chance on a 2-0 count and hit a two-hopper up the left side that snuck inbetween the second and third basemen to bring in the winning run.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good,” said McMeel, who came into the game hitting .190 on the season. “Demo (WNC assistant Aaron Demosthenes) has been working with me extra on hitting and we’re coming out early and staying late. So I felt really good coming into the game and I was just looking for some pitches to hit and they gave it to me, especially on the 2-0 pitch.”
Jordan Lewis got the start on the mound in the second game as he looked to overcome a lackluster first start of the year. He returned last week against Southern Idaho in a 2-1 loss in which he struggled to find his release point. That continued Saturday as he threw three wild pitches and never looked as crisp as he has during his Wildcat career.
Even so, he allowed just two hits in the game and an unearned run. He walked three batters in 3.1 innings and picked up the win.
“What I see in Jordan is the guy went out there and probably pitched the worst game of his career and gave up one run,” Whittemore said. “So, that just means he’s good.”
The Bruins gave away plenty of free bases in the game with four errors and five walks.
Skilton scored twice and reached base safely three times after reaching on an error in the first and walking twice. He went 0-for-2 in the game. Kevin Taylor was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run along with a double and a triple.
“This feels really good cause we worked hard all week,” McMeel said. “This is probably the best feeling we’ve had in a long time. Splitting last weekend wasn’t fun at all and this is one of the greatest feelings so far this year.”