Blake Slaymaker and Jacob Pekol were exceptional on the mound in helping the Western Nebraska Community College baseball team to a 3-2 Empire Conference win over Northeastern Junior College Wednesday afternoon at Cleveland Field.
The win moves the Cougars to 2-2 in conference play while NJC drops to 3-1. WNCC is tied with Lamar Community College in the conference.
Slaymaker said this was a big win for the team after dropping two of three against Lamar last weekend.
“This is a really good win for the team to get things rolling,” the sophomore from Johnstown, Colorado, said. “We played very well overall. Our pitching was a lot better today and our hitting came along, and they played a good defense behind us pitchers.”
Pitching was a key in the contest. Slaymaker picked up the win going five innings in scattering five hits while giving up just one run. Slaymaker struck out two. Jacob Pekol followed and picked up the save with four innings of work. Pekol allowed two hits, one run, and struck out five.
While the pitching staff was doing their job on the mound, the defense was also doing their job, holding NJC to just two runs and seven hits.
WNCC also got things done on the offensive side, scoring runs when they had to with big hits. WNCC managed six hits, but scored three clutch runs for the win.
“We gave up two runs in nine innings and that is a good day for us pitchers,” Slaymaker said. “We also had timely hits and timely at bats.”
WNCC started playing well early on and the defense started it. In NJC’s first at bat, the Plainsmen had two on with one out. Slaymaker put the hammer down in inducing a groundball for the second inning and then served a lazy fly ball to centerfielder Tyler Olson to get out of the jam.
The Cougars immediately got on the scoreboard. Cole Williams was hit by a pitch and then Olson singled. Maher scored the first run on a sacrifice fly.
NJC tied the game at 1-1 in the second only to watch WNCC go back in front with a single run in the third. Mitch Lightbody reached base on an error and scored on a 2-out single by Olson.
WNCC went up 3-1 after plating another run in the fifth. Lightbody led off the inning with a triple and scored on a Williams ground out.
NJC added a single run in the eighth and then had the tying run on base in the ninth. WNCC, however came up big as Pekol picked off the base runner and then the sophomore took care of the final two outs himself. The second out was a bunt that he easily threw out the runner and then he struck out the final out on a pitch looking.
Both pitching staffs pitched well. While WNCC’s staff allowed seven hits and struck out seven, the NJC staff allowed six hits and struck out 12.
WNCC’s offense was led by Maher and Tyler Olson with two hits each. Each also had an RBI, while Maher had a double. Harrison Yates also had a double, while Lightbody had a triple.
WNCC, who started the season 0-11, are finally coming around. In the last four games, the Cougars are 2-2 and will be back in action Saturday and Sundayfor a 3-game series against Otero in La Junta, Colorado for key conference games. WNCC will then head to Arizona for a week of games during Spring Break.
Slaymaker said this team is starting to come around and they have some key games this weekend.
“We are starting to come together as a team, hanging out a lot more, and just starting to be better,” he said. “This weekend we need to keep playing good baseball. Pitching will be huge where we have to continue to keep the ball down and get strikes. We also need to play defense because that will help us.”
NJC (8-6) 010 000 010 – 2 7 2
WNCC (2-13) 101 010 00x – 3 6 0
WP – Blake Slaymaker, S – Jacob Pekol
2B – Brandan Maher, Harrison Yates
3B – Mitch Lightbody