WNCC baseball sweeps Eastern Utah
Appeal Sports Writer
The Western Nevada Community College Wildcats tracked the Golden Eagles of the College of Eastern Utah down two distinctly different paths Friday, but the results were the same in the end.
The Wildcats jumped off to an early lead and held off CEU to take a 5-3 victory in WNCC’s inaugural game at John L. Harvey Field, then overcame a 5-0, fifth-inning deficit on the way to a 6-5 victory in the nightcap before approximately 250 fans.
“That first game was very special,” said WNCC coach D.J. Whittemore. “That’s the last time ever that we play the first game (at John L. Harvey Field). Getting the win gave us a big lift. I’m especially grateful for the support we received from the fans and the community.”
Whittemore also thanked Gov. Kenny Guinn, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch to open the doubleheader.
Starter Justin Garcia (6-4) went the seven-inning distance for the Wildcats, spreading out seven hits, walking two and striking out nine in the opener.
“Garcia has been our No. 1 pitcher from day one,” Whittemore said. “He brings consistency and probably the best intangibles I’ve seen an athlete possess. He’s a great competitor. He understands how to win. He lets his mind make his body better instead of vice-versa.”
Garcia had some help from his offense early as leadoff batter Kyle Bondurant (who walked to open the game) scored on a wild pitch by Golden Eagles starter Cole Evans. Left fielder Pat Grennan followed with a single down the right-field line to bring home Tyson Jaquez for the 2-0 lead in the first inning.
Jaquez hit a sacrifice fly in the third to score designated hitter Brett Mosher and CEU right fielder Tyler Nelson dropped a Bondurant flyball in the fourth, allowing Taylor Mieras and Jerahmie Libke (who both reached base on singles) to score for the 5-0 lead.
Garcia endured a rough fifth inning, allowing three runs before pitching himself out of a jam. Garcia surrendered a lead-off home run to CEU left fielder Craig Lanzuratta, a single to Colton Ray, an RBI-double to Eric Morgan and an RBI-single to Ryan Whitehead as the Golden Eagles closed the gap to 5-3.
But Garcia struck out DH Crosby Oldham, who represented the tying run, to end the inning and CEU would never seriously threaten again.
“He’s a cool customer – definitely. I don’t know if his heart rate ever gets over 75 – and that includes his conditioning drills,” Whittemore said of Garcia, tongue planted firmly in cheek.
Evans went the distance for CEU, allowing five runs and five hits, while walking four and striking out two.
But sweeping their four-game series with the Golden Eagles in Price, Utah, and the early victory may have led to complacency in the nightcap, said Mosher, whose two-run, go-ahead single in the bottom of the sixth inning proved to be the decisive hit in game two.
“It felt as though we as a team could whip these guys,” said Mosher, who went a combined 2-for-7, with 2 RBI. “But they came out and scored runs early. They were killing us. We didn’t know what to do. We were shocked.”
Oldham put the Golden Eagles on top early, hitting WNCC starter Cole Rohrbough’s offering out of the park for a 1-0 lead in the second inning.
CEU second baseman Morgan cleared the bases in the fourth, bringing home Tyler Jones, Ray and Colston Robinson for a 4-0 lead.
Rohrbough lasted 4 1/3 innings, giving up five earned runs on four hits, before giving way to Stephen Sauer, who gave up an RBI-single by Robinson in the fifth and gave the Golden Eagles their largest lead at 5-0.
But Sauer (4-1) allowed only two hits and a walk in 1 2/3 innings and got Kent Stilson to hit into an inning-ending double play with two on in the sixth.
Jaquez began the Wildcats’ rally with a bases-loaded RBI-single in the fifth to cut the Golden Eagles’ lead to 5-1. Bondurant was called back from home and Jaquez was subsequently ruled out after Jaquez was hit by the ball on Grennan’s single to keep the bases loaded with two out.
Then, to coin a phrase, it was Miller Time.
First baseman Tom Miller, that is.
Miller smoked a double off reliever Mitch Ramsdell to clear the bases and bring the Wildcats within a run at 5-4, setting the stage for Mosher’s sixth-inning magic.
“We came out flat and had a lot of opportunities to score, but we weren’t getting hits,” said Miller, a freshman. “I’m glad I could get a big hit for us. It was a 1-1 slider, just hanging there. We were down four at that point. Coming within one was big for us. It took us till the fifth to get in our groove. Better late than never.”
Jayson Madson went 4 2/3 for the Golden Eagles, giving up four runs on seven hits, walking four and striking out three. Ramsdell allowed two runs and three hits in 1 1/3 innings of relief.
One of those hits was to Mosher, who mashed a one-out double to left center for the deciding runs.
“I do what I do,” Mosher said. “I was looking to drive the ball somewhere, hoping for something to happen. It was a huge win, coming back from a 5-0 deficit. We have a lot of fight in our team.”
Sauer echoed Mosher’s assessment of his squad.
“I gave up a run, but we were feisty enough to come back and dominate the later innings,” Sauer said. “We did it (came back) against Salt Lake (in Carson) and we did that last week against Colorado Northwestern. We’re so scrappy. A team coasts on us and then we pull the rug out from under them.”
Daniel Grubbs entered the game in the seventh, earning his second save and allowing two hits, striking out one and causing pinch hitter Marcus Hanley to hit into a game-ending double play.
Sauer said he thought a change in pitching styles was responsible for shackling the Golden Eagles’ bats.
“Cole has got a sneaky, lightning-fast fastball,” he said. “I came in knowing he was throwing 90 and I didn’t want to gas it. I try to be crafty with my stuff (a slider and fastball).”
Happy but not satisfied. That would be the best way to describe Whiittemore, whose team moved to 31-15 overall, but more important, improved its league record to 25-9 and moved into a first-place tie with College of Southern Idaho (24-8 in league), which split its games Friday with Dixie State (now a half-game out of first in the Scenic West Athletic Conference).
“Winning is always better than losing,” Whittemore said. “Our goal is to play good baseball – not to have to come from behind. We were lucky we had some leadership on this team that got our guys going and hungry and fired up to play. And that’s Thomas Milller and Jerahmie Libke. I don’t know where we’d be without guys like that.”
WNCC will face CEU in another twinbill at John L. Harvey Field today, beginning at noon.
“The game plan we have is to play hard, play together and play smart,” Whittemore said. “We try to do those things every game.”
NOTES: Whittemore said catcher/DH Aaron Greer was admitted to Carson-Tahoe Hospital on Thursday, where doctors discovered blood clots in his legs and lungs. Greer missed most of the season with blood clots and was hitting .154, with one homer and 5 RBI since his recent return from the disabled list.
“He’s doing very well,” Whittemore said of Greer. “He’s in no immediate jeopardy. He’ll have to take blood-thinners the rest of his life. It’s a personal decision for him (to play ball again). There’s some risk involved. He’s a very positive kid. If anybody can handle this, it’s him.”