The Western Nevada College Wildcats may look back to March 14 as a pivotal point in their season. Two dramatic walk-off victories gave the Wildcats a momentum boost that inspired them to workmanlike 17-2 and 7-5 nonconference wins over Mount Hood Community College on Saturday in Carson City.
The four-game sweep improved WNC’s overall record to 19-9 and righted the club after splitting four games the previous weekend at Colorado Northwestern. The Wildcats won 6-5 and 9-6 on Friday as Rayne Raven’s home run in the bottom of the 10th inning broke a 5-5 tie in Game 1 and Joey Crunkilton’s three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh broke a 6-6tie in Game 2.
“Coach (Frank) Carey had some pointed comments after yesterday’s games about just keeping our foot on the gas pedal, and that paid off in the first game, where we were able to extend the lead and save some pitching, so that we had lot of fresh arms at the end of the fourth game,” said WNC coach D.J. Whittemore. “We have a lot of guys contributing and a lot of guys working hard to get their chance and make good on it at the end of the week.”
WNC immediately jumped on Mount Hood starting pitcher Evans Jones in the opener, scoring four runs in its first at-bat. A sacrifice fly by Rayne Raven plated Christian Stolo for the Wildcats’ first run, then Joey Crunkilton provided more of the power hitting he demonstrated to conclude Friday’s twin bill. For the second straight plate appearance, Crunkilton went deep, sending his team-leading fourth homer of the season into the sagebrush in right field to make the score 2-0. Connor Klein and Tony Roque added a run-scoring single and RBI double, respectively, to exacerbate Jones’ rough opening frame.
The Wildcats tacked on another run in the second inning on Raven’s second sacrifice fly to move in front 5-0.
Wildcat starter Conor Harber ran into some trouble in the third inning, giving up a two-run homer to No. 9 hitter Cole Hamilton to cut WNC’s lead to 5-2. Later in the inning, Harber walked consecutive hitters with two outs, but got a force at third to get out of the jam.
In the third inning, Stolo’s third straight hit brought home Sam Hall, putting the Wildcats in front 6-2. Alex Fife’s sharp grounder to first with the bases loaded scored Roque, extending WNC’s edge to 7-2.
The Wildcats weren’t finished offensively as Raven collected his third and fourth RBI with a base hit into center field. Crunkilton’s bad-hop triple into the right-center gap sent Raven to the plate for a 10-2 WNC lead.
The top of WNC’s lineup lit up four Mount Hood pitchers for 14 hits.
Stolo was 3 for 5 with four runs scored while knocking in two, Raven was 1 for 1 with four RBI and a run scored, and Crunkilton delivered a pair of extra-base hits and drove in three runs. Also, Hall contributed two hits, scored three runs and stole a base, and Reynolds came off the bench to smack two doubles.
“The coach kept preaching to keep kicking them when you are ahead, so they don’t have a chance to get back,” Stolo said. “It’s a confidence booster; it’s fun to get some wins before we go back into league play.”
The lopsided victory in the opener didn’t drop the Wildcats’ focus in game two. WNC erupted for a four-run second inning, triggered by a Pool’s homer to right. It was the freshman’s third shot of the season.
Austin Andrews also came up big during the rally, executing a safety squeeze bunt to score Hall. Jake Bennett collected the third RBI of the inning with a two-out single to right to score Reynolds. The Wildcats used some heady baserunning to steal a fourth run. With Wildcats on first and third, Whittemore sent both runners and Bennett touched home plate before Fife was tagged out.
The Saints were unable to capitalize against Raven in the first three innings. Mount Hood left runners on second and third bases in the first and second innings and a runner at second in the third.
Three scoreless innings and the win give Raven (3-2) something to build on.
“I asked if I could start to see if I could work through some stuff,” Raven said. “I’ve been working on a lot of different stuff in bullpen (sessions), and I think I’m going to have a lot of confidence coming out from getting the start and feeling good.”
The Wildcats extended their lead to 7-0 in the third frame. Pool’s groundout allowed Harber to score from third, and Hall blasted a two-run homer to right, his first roundtripper in a Wildcats’ uniform.
CSN softball sweeps WNC
Three mercy-rule-shortened games against seventh-ranked College of Southern Nevada didn’t demoralize the Western Nevada College softball team on Saturday in Henderson.
Freshman pitcher Katilyn Covione blanked the Coyotes for four innings, and the Wildcats had the tying and possible winning runs in scoring positions in the final inning before CSN nailed down a 3-2 Scenic West Athletic Conference victory.
The Coyotes started their Saturday sweep with a five-inning 11-2 victory.
But game two was in doubt until the final pitch. CSN’s Ariel Frantz broke up a scoreless duel with a two-run homer in the fifth inning.
However, the Wildcats fought back in the top of the sixth against Megan Mello. Meghan Hospodka singled to right and advanced to third on Heather Septon’s one-out double. Lindsey Ashbaugh broke up the Coyote shutout with a single to left, plating Hospodka.
Septon, however, was thrown out at the plate, trying to score on a Cara McCarthy fly out to center.
A two-out RBI triple by Aimee Alpa in the bottom of the sixth gave the Coyotes some breathing room at 3-1.
But the Wildcats clawed back in their last at-bat. With one out, Katelyn Bomar and Madi Gonzalez singled to center field, setting up a Makenzie Hospodka RBI double to center, trimming the Coyote lead to 3-2. But Mello prevented the Wildcats from tying the score or taking the lead by retiring Meghan Hospodka on a popup to second base and Jenny Rechel on a fly out to center.
Gonzalez and Bomar each provided two hits for the Wildcats, who outhit CSN, 8-6.
Hitting in the No. 7 spot, Sarina Creswell was 3-for-3 with five RBI for the Coyotes in an 11-2 victory over the Wildcats.
Creswell lined a run-scoring single during a three-run first inning and a three-run homer during a game-changing, five-run third inning. In the top of the frame, WNC closed to within 3-2 on a Gonzalez RBI double and a Makenzie Hospodka sacrifice fly.
Gonzalez continued her hot hitting, going 2 for 2 with a run and RBI. The Wildcats other two hits were provided by Meghan Hospodka and Septon.
The SWAC-leading Coyotes improved to 18-6.
WNC, which saw its SWAC record slip to 6-17, begins the second half of conference play on Friday at College of Southern Idaho. The Wildcats are 9-23 overall.