The Western Nebraska Community College baseball team wrapped up the home portion of their season with a split with McCook Community College Sunday afternoon at Cleveland Field.
In the opener, McCook scored three, fifth-inning runs and hung on for the 4-2 win. The second game saw WNCC’s Blake Slaymaker toss a 3-hitter in leading the Cougars to the 3-1 win to send the 13 sophomores out with a win in their final game at Cleveland Field.
Gering’s Esai Hernandez, one of the sophomores, said they played well despite the split.
“We played good. The pitching was really good,” Hernandez said. “The pitchers really located and were down in the zone. The defense was really good behind the pitchers and made plays when needed to. It was a good day.”
The offense also did good things behind the pitching staff excellent day. The first game loss saw WNCC just not able to get a clutch hit, while the second game, the Cougars scored when they needed to early and then rode the strong-arm of Slaymaker on the mound.
“Pitching was definitely the key today,” the Hernandez said. “The second game our approaches at the plate was way better and it definitely made a difference in the second game over the first game.”
It was especially awarding for Hernandez and the rest of the sophomores to finish their careers at home with a win.
“It means a lot to wrap up mine and the sophomores’ career on the field, especially with a win,” Hernandez said. “it is really special for us sophomores and I am pretty sure we will all miss playing here.”
More importantly the Cougars are still in line for a regional tournament berth. The Cougars will next be in action on Monday when they travel to Northeastern Junior College for a 9-inning game. They then will wrap up the regular season with a six-game series at Miles Community College. Miles is 12-18 in the conference with six games left, while WNCC is 11-18 with seven games left.
Hernandez said they must play well, just like they did in the second game on Sunday and the 17-13 win on Saturday.
“We just need to play like we did [Saturday] and the second game today. The pitchers need to keep executing, the defense plays well, and the offense has good approaches,” Hernandez said. “We just need to drive in the runs when we need to.”
Sunday’s contest was decided by pitching as both teams’ pitching and defense were stellar on the day. In the opener, Hunter Parker and Kale Litzelman allowed just seven hits and four runs. WNCC just couldn’t get the clutch hit to score runs when they needed.
The second game belonged to Slaymaker, who tossed the complete game. McCook had just one double in the contest against Slaymaker from the bat of Beau Hawley. McCook pitcher Jacob Lombardelli also tossed a strong contest to go the distance. Lombardelli allowed five hits and all three runs came in the first two innings.
WNCC and McCook each plated a single run in the first-inning of the second game. After McCook scored one, WNCC plated one after Cole Williams doubled and scored on a Brandan Maher single.
WNCC added two runs in the second to grab a 3-1 lead. Tommy McRill led off with a single. Harrison Yates then was hit by a pitch. Mitch Lightbody followed with a 2-out triple to plate both runs.
After that, neither team had much offense. Slaymaker cruised along, having three 3-up, 3-down innings. McCook had just three base runners in the final five innings. Slaymaker tossed just 87 pitches in seven innings of work.
The first game also saw fine pitching on both sides. McCook’s Tyler Cox went the distance in allowing seven hits and two runs while striking out six Cougars. WNCC’s Parker also went strong, going 6 1/3 innings in scattering six hits and allowing four runs. Parker struck out nine batters before giving way to Litzelman, who allowed just one hit in two-thirds of an innings.
Offensively, WNCC scored single runs in the first and sixth innings. Lightbody led off with a walk followed by a double by Brandan Maher. Lightbody then scored on a groundout for the 1-0 lead.
The lead stayed that way until the fifth with McCook plated three runs on two outs to grab the lead. The Cougars sliced the deficit to a single run in the sixth as Claude Bova singled home Jonathan Bermudez. WNCC couldn’t get any more runs the rest of the way.
Both teams had seven hits in the game. Lightbody and Jonathan Bermudez each had two hits while scoring a run. Lightbody finished with two doubles in the setback.
McCook 000 030 1 – 4 7 0
WNCC 100 001 0 – 2 7 1
LP – Hunter Parker
2B – Brandan Maher, Mitch Lightbody 2
McCook 100 000 0 – 1 3 0
WNCC 120 000 x – 3 5 2
LP – Blake Slaymaker
2B – Cole Williams
3B – Mitch Lightbody