May 24, 2006

Wildcats Surprise in First Season With Conference Title

The inaugural season for Western Nevada Community College's baseball team was a big hit as the Wildcats finished with a 37-18 overall record, a Scenic West Athletic Conference Championship, and a top 20 ranking in the National Junior College Athletic Association's final poll.

"We reached all of our goals we set out at the beginning of the season while playing in one of the top junior college conferences in the country," Head Coach D.J. Whittemore said. According to Whittemore the program started with five goals for the season, "Build and develop character in our players; graduate and transfer our sophomores; have fun; build relationships; and win a championship."

The Wildcats were one of four SWAC teams ranked in the top 20 at different points of the season. In two of the last three seasons, the SWAC champion has taken home the NJCAA National Championship trophy.

WNCC proved to be calm under pressure against the tough competition winning 14 of 17 games decided by one-run. "We proved it ain't over till it's over by winning several games in the final frame," Whittemore added.

Western opened the season winning its first intercollegiate baseball game in the school's history 4-2 against preseason-ranked Glendale Community College on January 27. Later that same day, they captured another big win by beating in-state rival Community College of Southern Nevada 6-3. CCSN had been ranked in preseason polls as high as No. 14.

The Wildcats went on to beat two other ranked teams before the conference season started, Santa Ana College and South Mountain Community College. WNCC also managed to defeat three of the last four junior college national champions during the season: 2002 champion Central Arizona Community College 8-0 February 10; 2004 champion Dixie State College 8-4 and 3-2 February 13-14, and 14-4 March 13; and 2003 champion CCSN again 5-4 in WNCC's first ever SWAC conference game February 17.

"Winning our first ever SWAC game on the road against the team that had won the last two SWAC Championships gave us a lot of confidence as the conference season started up," Whittemore said.

After playing their first 16 games on the road, the Wildcats returned home in a big way to sweep Colorado Northwestern Community College to win their first four games ever in Carson City February 24-25. Games were played at Carson High School's Ron McNutt Field, as construction on WNCC's new field was not completed. Wildcat pitchers did not allow a run in the series until the fourth inning of the fourth game, throwing 24 consecutive scoreless frames.

The Wildcats won all eight games against the College of Eastern Utah March 24-25 and April 28-29, and all eight of their games against CNCC February 24-25 and April 21-22. This included two sweeps on the road and two at home.

John L. Harvey Field opened at WNCC April 28 and was Western's home field for the final two series of the season, and the Region 18 tournament. The Wildcats apparently liked having a home field advantage winning their first seven games in their new ballpark against Eastern Utah and CSI. The three wins against CSI clinched the Scenic West Conference Championship for the Wildcats.

WNCC closed out the season taking 11 straight games in true storybook fashion to clinch the SWAC Championship with a 30-10 conference record. This record was particularly impressive considering 32 of WNCC's 52 games were away from home, and only eight were played at John L. Harvey Field.

Winning the SWAC Championship rewarded the Wildcats with a No. 1 seed in the 2006 Region 18 Tournament. WNCC served as the tournament host and once again, the baseball team didn't disappoint, winning their first ever post-season game 9-1 against Salt Lake Community College May 11. The Wildcats finished in third place in the tournament to cap off their surprisingly successful initial year.


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