by Anne Hansen, Western Nevada College Follow @WNC_Information
Western Nevada College took its young baseball team to a season opening tournament in Las Vegas last weekend, and came home with three victories in four outings.
To understand how the team of mostly freshmen prospered during the opening weekend of the season, one need only look at the past. Those who have followed the triumphant team over the past nine seasons, knows that the Wildcats’ recipe for success begins with dominant starting pitching.
WNC received three lengthy outings on the mound en route to wins over South Mountain Community College of Phoenix.
The Wildcats closed out their series with the Cougars by splitting a doubleheader on Sunday, losing 15-10 and winning 4-3.
Chase Kaplan, a freshman left-hander, delivered a three-hitter over six innings to pick up the win in game two. He walked just one batter before turning the ball over to Ty Fox, who pitched the final inning.
Kaplan’s victory followed outstanding performances by starting pitchers Max Karnos and Matt Young as the Wildcats won twice on Saturday. Between Kaplan, Karnos and Young, they allowed just two runs and three walks.
“Going into the weekend with a 75-pitch limit and getting 16 innings out of those guys, that was a huge bright spot,” said WNC coach D.J. Whittemore. “The trick is going to be duplicating that.”
Offensively, the Wildcats consistently executed at the plate to take advantage of their scoring opportunities. Jon Guzman knocked in a run with a sacrifice fly and David Modler put down a safety squeeze bunt to bring home another run.
“We really played well in all three phases most of the weekend,” Whittemore said. “The offense put a lot of pressure on them almost every inning the whole series … lots of quality at-bats and approaches.
“It looked like we had a chance to practice baseball before we played. Having that (mild) weather in January allowed us to make some needed improvements.”
Sunday’s opening game didn’t go as well for the Wildcats despite a three-run homer by Corey Pool. The Cougars snapped a 4-4 tie with an eight-run uprising in the fifth inning.
Right-hander Josh Mill started for the Wildcats and lasted 3 2/3 innings. Reliever Thomas Kerr took the loss.
For the weekend, Whittemore said that Modler played well at second base, Pool was considerably above average at first base and the middle of the batting order performed up to the coaching staff’s expectations.
With a short week to prepare for its next series and another 900-mile roundtrip to negotiate, Whittemore has his Wildcats focused on the next game and improvement.
“We don’t try to get too high when we win or too low when we lose. We learn how we can get better when we win and learn how we can become better when we lose,” Whittemore said.
WNC (3-1) will return to Las Vegas for a four-game series against third-ranked Cochise starting Friday.
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