WNC squeezes past CSN 4-3
It’s been a rough season for WNC sophomore catcher Sean Dwyer.
Innings have been few and far between as his 90 at-bats and .211 average would indicate.
With left-hander Chipper Smith going for College of Southern Nevada, D.J. Whittemore rolled the dice and gave Dwyer a shot at designated hitter.
Dwyer rewarded that faith by singling home the tying run in the bottom of the eighth, and three batters later, Tanner Nielsen singled in the winning run to give the Wildcats a 4-3 victory in the quarterfinals of the Scenic West Conference Tournament Thursday at John L. Harvey Field.
The win sends top-seeded WNC into the semifinals against No. 2 Salt Lake City today at 9 a.m. WNC concluded the regular season by sweeping the Bruins. There will be tournament games at 12:30 and 4 p.m., too.
“I knew last night (Wednesday) that I was going to play,” said Dwyer. “Coach called me because he wanted me to be mentally prepared. I’ve seen other people (on the team) pick up their teammates, and it feels good to be able to do it and be the hero.”
“Sean is everything the program epitomizes,” Whittemore said. “He works so hard all the time. He prepares to play even when he’s not going to play.”
Smith, armed with a 3-2 lead thanks to Cameron Harper’s two-run homer in the top of the eighth, had scattered six hits through the first seven innings. He opened the eighth by striking out Connor Eppard and Beau Day.
Sean Potkay kept the inning alive with a walk and advanced to second on a single by Brooks Klein. Dwyer followed with a single between third and short on a 3-1 fastball to score Potkay to make it 3-3. After Pat McMeel walked to load the bases, Nielsen singled to right field to score Klein with the go-ahead run. Dwyer was thrown out at the plate trying to score from second on the hit.
“I’ve gotten into some good situations (lately),” said Nielsen. “He (reliever Matt Dunbar) had walked the previous guy. The coach said they wouldn’t want to walk me and to look for something out over the plate. I just hit the first pitch.”
CSN made it interesting in the ninth, however.
Winning pitcher Chris Garrison who fanned nine in 4.1 innings of work, retired the first two hitters. Dalton Gust grounded to short, but Potkay couldn’t handle Nielsen’s throw. Garrison walked Duncan Satherlie, but struck out Christian Centrella to end the game.
Garrison, who took over for Anthony Consiglio in the top of the fifth, allowed two runs on three hits including Harper’s homer. He had great command of his curveball, which he was able to throw whether he was ahead or behind.
“Once again, the team saved my butt,” Garrison said. “I wasn’t surprised to go in that early. I figured we were trying to do anything to stay in the winner’s bracket. I could maybe throw again because my arm feels good. We have a lot of pitchers who can throw.
“It was nice to have a second pitch since my cutter wasn’t working. Pat (McMeel) did a great job of calling it at the right time.”
Whittemore said he had no qualms about making the move so quickly.
“It’s the same recipe we use every game; every guy to win every game,” Whittemore said. “Chris did a great job, and Anthony threw a lot of good pitches.”
Whittemore said he was undecided on who would face Salt Lake today. He’ll choose between lefty Kody Gorden, right-hander Andrew Woeck and righty Tim Peterson.
WNC won the season series against Salt Lake 5-3.
Whittemore was selected as the SWAC Coach of the Year, while Nielsen was Defensive Player of the Year and Garrison was the Reliever of the Year.
Taylor Smart, Eppard, Consiglio and Peterson wre named to the first team. Gorden, Beau Day, Klein, Nielsen and Potkay were second-team selections.