Wildcats win two thrillers
For the Nevada Appeal
HENDERSON – It was the little things that doomed Western Nevada on Thursday and sent it to the loser’s bracket in the Region XVIII baseball tournament.
But on Friday, the Wildcats did just enough of those little things – executing with runners in scoring position and making key plays – to keep themselves alive.
WNC won two one-run games – 3-2 against Southern Idaho and 4-3 over Salt Lake – to stave off elimination. It will face tournament host and top-seeded Southern Nevada at noon today where it will have to win back-to-back games to claim a second consecutive region title.
“This is the type of baseball that we’re built to play, is pitching and defense and winning one-run games,” WNC coach D.J. Whittemore said. “Can’t say enough about the pitching today, all four guys we’re outstanding.”
The Wildcats were on the brink of elimination in the late game against Salt Lake as the Bruins put two runs on the board in the third inning and held a 3-2 lead going into the eighth inning. Kyle Conwell tied the game up in the eighth with a sacrifice fly that scored Kevin Taylor.
After reliever Riley Bevill retired the Bruins in order in the bottom of the inning, Chris Sinclair hit a one-out double and was replaced by pinch runner Trevor Goff. The next batter, Andrew Garcia, was hit by a pitch. Two batters later, Taylor came to the plate with two outs and crushed a two-strike, RBI single up the middle to bring in what would be the winning run.
“We’ve had a lot of these games in this past year and it’s never the end until the last out,” Taylor said. “Just take it an at-bat at a time and grind out and execute; get the runners over.”
Bevill, though, had to close the game out in the ninth inning against the best hitting team in the Scenic West Athletic Conference. Josh Mooney led off with a single to right field and looked to be aggressive on the base paths as WNC tried to hold him to first base with a handful of throw-over attempts.
Bevill struck out the next batter, and Mooney attempted to steal second with nine-hitter Kasey Carling at the plate. Pat McMeel, who came in at catcher as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning, fired a laser to second base that got there easily before Mooney for the second out of the inning.
“Mooney’s an aggressive hitter, an aggressive runner, just aggressive all around,” McMeel said. “Coach came out and just told us this guy is going to try to be a hero, he’s going to pick himself off and he almost did … When he went, I didn’t think I just reacted.”
Carling, though, reached on an error on a pop-fly to shallow right that neither Conwell or Taylor could pick up. But Bevill got Kyle Bilbrey to pop out to first to end the game.
WNC used four pitchers on the day, including David Carroll who pitched four innings in relief in the first game to pick up the win. While Jordan Lewis, the only available starter who hasn’t already thrown in a game, will get the start today, the question remains is the Wildcats’ pitching staff deep enough to beat Southern Nevada not just once, but twice in the same day?
“There’s a lot of fresh arms and a lot of arms that aren’t fresh that want to be used again,” Whittemore said. “It’s not going to be a matter of running out of pitching, it’s going to be to find a way of silencing their bats and try and score some runs against some really stingy pitching. Obviously, we’re going to be battling a hostile crowd and playing on their home field.
“The task is large, but play every pitch. That’s it.”