Western Nevada College honored nine ballplayers on Sophomore Day on Saturday, and many of them contributed to a doubleheader sweep of College of Southern Idaho.
Sophomore catcher Cole Ferguson belted a pair of two-run doubles and sophomore pitchers Brandon Show and Austin Richmond craftily worked their way out of trouble in the Wildcats’ 4-2 and 7-2 Scenic West Athletic Conference baseball wins at John L. Harvey Field in Carson City.
The four-game sweep of the Golden Eagles means that the Wildcats finish in a second-place SWAC tie with Salt Lake, but WNC will go into the Region 18 tournament as the second seed by virtue of winning the season series from the Bruins.
“Really just happy to take the sophomores out in style,” said WNC coach D.J. Whittemore. “Those guys have meant a lot to the program and to see them go out on top at home feels good.
“I think they have been looking forward to this weekend for a long time. We haven’t played a home game since March (23). That’s a long time for a baseball team not to get a home game.”
Whittemore honored eight sophomores and a redshirt freshman between games.
“It was definitely emotional. It has gone by so quick, you don’t realize it,” said Ferguson, who leads the Wildcats with 41 RBI, and, as a second-year catcher, has helped make the pitching staff one of the conference’s toughest with a 2.66 team ERA.
In the opener, Ferguson padded his team-leading RBI total by knocking in Joey Crunkilton and Conor Harber with a double to right-center field, putting WNC ahead 3-1 in the third inning.
“I don’t know, I just don’t think,” said Ferguson of his propensity to deliver in the clutch. “It’s scary, but you just have to get over it and not think, do your job and have an approach.”
Later in the inning, Alex Fife executed a safety squeeze bunt to score Ferguson for a 4-1 WNC lead.
Left-hander Brock Pellow relieved WNC starter Show to start the fifth inning. The Golden Eagles greeted Pellow with an unearned run to pull within 4-2, but Pellow kept the Wildcats in front with his two-inning relief stint.
Show (4-1), making only his sixth start of the season because of an elbow injury, struck out three and didn’t walk a batter.
“It was awesome. I haven’t really pitched that much since I hurt my arm, so it felt good to pitch a couple more innings,” Show said.
CSI connected for three hits in the second inning, but a picked off baserunner diffused the rally. Show stranded runners on second and third bases by striking out Kendal Maier on a high fastball.
Harber made only his fifth relief appearance of the season in the seventh inning. He struck out pinch-hitter Patrick Green, after hitting Bobby Wright with a pitch, then Harber retired Preston Young on strikes. The freshman right-hander completed his first save of the season by outlasting Carter Yagi in an 11-pitch battle that ended with Yagi flying out to center fielder Donald Glover Jr.
The Wildcats scored first against CSI’s Grant Kukuk, a Reno High School product, on Conner Klein’s safety squeeze in the first inning. The bunt scored Christian Stolo, who opened the frame with a double down the left-field line and took third on Crunkilton’s groundout to the right side.
CSI tied the score at 1 in the third on Yagi’s RBI double to right field.
In a rainy game two, Glover Jr. put the Wildcats in front 2-0 on a two-run base hit to center in the first inning. CSI starting pitcher Joey Getz walked the bases loaded before Glover Jr.’s productive hit.
WNC extended its lead to 5-1 by pushing three runs across the plate in the second. Ferguson’s second two-run double of the day, a liner to left field, scored Tony Roque and Matt Becker.
The Golden Eagles repeatedly put runners on base against Richmond but weren’t very successful getting them home. Richmond (2-3) weaved his way through the first three innings, leaving two runners on base in each frame.
In all, CSI left 12 runners on base.
A two-run triple by Roque in the fifth expanded the Wildcats’ lead to 7-2. Glover Jr. started the two-out rally with a standup triple to center.
“It’s just a confidence builder. Hopefully I can keep doing that,” Glover Jr. said. “Not the season I wanted goal-wise, but baseball is hard, so you just have to deal with it and keep truckin’.”
After Richmond fanned the final three hitters he faced in the third, sophomore right-hander Evan Parker threw three innings of two-hit ball, allowing a run in the fifth. Tyler Bennett worked the final inning, using a double play to prevent any hint of a CSI rally.
“We knew we needed to pitch every guy,” Whittemore said. “Last weekend, we were only able to use six guys, so we wanted to give the bullpen some work and get ready for the week.”
WNC finished the regular season with a 38-18 overall record. The Wildcats won 14 of their final 16 SWAC games to compile a 23-13 conference mark.
“CSI got the better of us by taking four of the first five, so to come back and prove we can hang with them feels good,” Whittemore said.
The Wildcats will play Salt Lake at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in their region opener in Henderson.