WNC runs home regular-season streak to 34
Scenic West Conference opponents understand one thing – the Western Nevada College Wildcats are tough to beat at John L. Harvey Field, especially during the regular season.
WNC played its first game of the season at home on Friday and cruised to a doubleheader sweep of College of Eastern Utah, 11-1 and 8-2. WNC remains undefeated in league play with a 6-0 record.
The sweep extended WNC’s home winning streak in the regular season to 34 straight games. The last time WNC lost a regular-season contest was March 20, 2010, to College of Southern Idaho.
The teams conclude the four-game series with a doubleheader at 11 a.m. today.
“It feels like we picked up where we left off in the regular season (last year),” WNC coach D.J. Whittemore said after the second game. “These are long weekend; long days, and one of the biggest challenges is to play each pitch the same way.”
The Wildcats certainly did a solid job of achieving that goal, though there was a hiccup here and there.
It was feast or famine for WNC in the opener, which was stopped after five innings because of the 10-run rule. The Wildcats scored six in the second and five more in the fourth.
Eastern Utah’s only run came in the second when Nuho Kraja hit a sinking line drive. Left fielder Derrick Pitts went for a diving catch and came up empty. He chased the ball down to the fence and then got his cleat caught in the fence which enabled Kraja to circle the bases for a homer.
“Those balls are hard to read,” Pitts said. “There is so much spin. I tried to make the play and keep the ball in front of me, but I couldn’t. Then my cleat got stuck and I couldn’t get it out.”
The Wildcats came back with a vengeance in the bottom of the inning.
Taylor Smart led off with a single, stole second and moved to third on a single by Neil Lawhorn. Donald Glover Jr. followed with a gap shot to left-centerfield to core both runners. Glover avoided the tag with a headfirst slide, and he dislocated his shoulder in the process. He scored moments later on Rayne Raven’s single, but left the game after that.
“He told me it’s happened before, and he said he was out three-to-five days,” Whittemore said. “I wouldn’t expect him to play (today).”
After Raven singled and A.J. Hernandez popped up, Dillon Ness walked. Pitts followed with a three-run bomb to deep right field on a 3-2 pitch from Mason Moore, Eastern Utah’s second pitcher of the game, to make it 6-1.
“You always try to redeem yourself for sure,” Pitts said. “You have to pick each other up. I was trying to pick up (Tyler) Spencer.”
Spencer, who threw 67 pitches in three innings, pitched a scoreless third but was lifted in favor of Brandon Jackson, who pitched the final two innings to pick up the win. Spencer didn’t have his dominant stuff, but Eastern Utah made it tough by fouling off pitches and extending at-bats.
“I don’t know what went wrong,” Spencer said. “They did a good job fouling off pitches. It was just not a good day for me.”
Fortunately for Spencer, the offense had a big day. WNC tacked on five more in the fourth, as Hernandez drove in two runs with a single, Ness tripled home a run, Pitts singled home a run for his fourth RBI and Lawhorn singled home a run.
In the second game, WNC rode the tremendous seven-inning performance of right-hander Andrew Woeck, who allowed two unearned run on four hits. He fanned nine and didn’t walk a batter in his 95-pitch effort. Woeck worked both sides of the plate with his fastball, curve and change-up.
“He was outstanding,” Whittemore said. “He had command of all three of his pitches, and he was throwing them in the right counts. He has had that kind of command the last three or four weeks.”
“I finally found it (the curveball),” Woeck said. “I changed my grip and I had good control of the curve today. I felt I’ve had my fastball all season.”
Woeck retired 14 of the first 15 batters he faced through five innings. Matt Gochis broke up the no-hitter with a double right with one out in the fourth, but he was thrown out at third trying to stretch it into a triple. Zach Hendrix, the WNC second baseman, fired a perfect strike to third after getting the strong relay throw from Pitts.
Woeck’s job was made easier because his teammates scored two in the second, one in the third and one in the fifth for a 4-0 lead. Cole Ferguson, Ness and Tony Guidara had run-scoring hits for the Wildcats.
Eastern Utah scored both of its runs in the sixth. An error by Hendrix opened the door, and Gochis’ second double of the game, a ground ball just inside the line, scored both runners.
“It was a change and I left it in the middle of the plate,” said Woeck, who is headed to North Carolina State in the fall.
Austin Richmond worked two scoreless innings to finish up.
NOTES: WNC is down to 10 healthy position players for today’s game after Glover dislocated his shoulder legging out a triple. Chris Woolley and Bobby Pappin are currently out with broken hands, though Whittemore did say Woolley could return next weekend … Dylan Baker, 4-1, will get the nod to start Game 1 on the mound. Whittemore said he’s uncertain who will start the second game.