February 21, 2012

Take Three from Riverside CC

Wildcats Cap SoCal Trip with Sweep

Past road trips to Southern California haven't been pleasant for the Western Nevada College baseball team. So, when the Wildcats dropped the opener of a four-game road trip to San Diego on February 15, the prospects for changing that trend were uncertain. However, WNC capped a three-game nonconference sweep of Riverside Community College with a 4-3 victory February 18 at Evans Sports Complex in Riverside.

"Over the years, Riverside and the rest of Southern California have really had their way with us," said Western Nevada Coach D.J. Whittemore. The Wildcats brought a 6-13 record in past trips to Southern California.

"To go 3-1 is very gratifying," he said. "I have tremendous respect for the Riverside program and their coaching staff. When the season is all said and done, they are going to experience a great deal of success."

WNC relief pitcher Rayne Raven extinguished a Riverside rally in the ninth inning, stranding runners on first and second bases to notch his third save. Rayne finished off a strong weekend for WNC pitchers, including three quality starts.

Western Nevada jumped out to a 4-0 lead by scoring single runs in four separate innings, but the Tigers started to make a game of it in the seventh. Riverside scored once in the seventh and twice in the eighth to pull within one. AJ Hernandez and Donald Glover each stroked two hits for WNC.

Dylan Baker made a strong start for the Wildcats, shutting out Riverside on two hits through four innings. He struck out six and walked one. Philip Belding earned his second win by working 3 2/3 innings, scattering six hits and allowing one earned run.

Western Nevada, which improved its overall record to 11-5, also received strong pitching in the first two games of the series, winning 12-4 and 3-1.
"Our pitchers are really off to a great start," probably the best start we've ever had," Whittemore said. "(Pitching) Coach (Jeremy) Beard really has these guys throwing well."

Tyler Spencer and two relievers combined to limit Riverside to three hits in WNC's 3-1 victory on February 17. Spencer picked up his third win in four decisions by one-hitting the Tigers through five innings. He gave up three walks and fanned six before giving way to an equally effective bullpen in the sixth. Anthony Consiglio worked three scoreless innings, surrendering one hit and punching out four. Raven gave up a single in the ninth but kept Riverside off the scoreboard to pick up the save.

WNC pushed across all of its runs in the first three innings. Dillon Ness connected for a ground-rule double to plate Hernandez in the first frame, and his base hit in a two-run third scored Bobby Gazzola to put the Wildcats ahead 2-0. Derrick Pitts scored WNC's final run on a fielding error in the third. Ness collected two of the Wildcats' four hits and knocked in two runs. Hernandez and Cole Ferguson delivered WNC's other hits.

In the eight-run rout of Riverside in the series opener on February 16, Western Nevada erupted for 10 runs in the seventh inning to break open a one-run game.

"Baseball is a funny game like that. You never know when you are going to get them, so you have to keep grinding," Whittemore said. "Our hitters did a good job of continuing to play the next pitch."

A three-bagger by Hernandez ignited the offensive explosion that saw WNC send 16 batters to the plate. The other big blows during the lengthy inning were Neil Lawhorn's two-run single, Gazzola's two-RBI double to and a RBI triple by Alex Schmidt.

Schmidt and Ferguson topped WNC's 14-hit attack with three hits apiece. Schmidt also contributed two RBI and three runs scored, while Ferguson drove in two runs and touched home plate once. Ferguson's two-out double in the third chased home Schmidt from second base, providing the only run until the Wildcats' offensive fireworks in the seventh. Lawhorn had two hits and two RBI. Raven and Gazzola also finished with two RBI.

For the second straight outing, WNC starting pitcher Andrew Woeck blanked the opposition. Woeck (2-0) pitched seven shutout innings, permitting four hits and striking out eight in a 115-pitch commanding performance.

"Andrew is commanding the baseball and competing," Whittemore said. "He has worked really hard, and I'm happy for his success."

The Wildcats have some extra time to prepare for their Scenic West Athletic Conference-opening series March 2-3 at Colorado Northwestern Community College in Rangely, Colo. Whittemore, who referred to his team's preseason schedule as the most difficult ever, said the break in games comes at a good time.

"It gives us some time to shore up things defensively and offensively and gives us a chance to get caught up in school and rest our bodies a bit," Whittemore said. "We'll enjoy starting back fresh."

The Wildcats begin their home schedule March 9-10 with a four-game set with College of Eastern Utah at John L. Harvey Field.


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