LA JUNTA, Colo. – The Western Nebraska Community College baseball team scored eight early runs and then got a standout pitching performance from Hunter Parker in topping Southeast Community College 8-4 in a play-in game for the Region IX Tournament Thursday in La Junta, Colorado.
WNCC moves forward into the double elimination tournament Friday through Sunday in La Junta, Colorado.
The play-in game took two days to play after rain on Wednesday forced the suspension and move of the game to a drier field on Thursday.
When play resumed, WNCC continued excelling offensively and defensively to move into the actual tournament. The Cougars will now face top-seeded Trinidad State Junior College at 11 a.m. in La Junta, Colorado. The other first-round game pits No. 2 Lamar Community College against No. 3 Northeastern Junior College. The two winners will face each other Saturday, while the two losers will battle in an elimination game on Saturday.
WNCC coach Mike Jones said the contest against Trinidad State should be a good one since they have competed well against the Trojans this season, winning the series 5-1. WNCC only loss to the Trinidad was at Trinidad when they fell 11-3. The two wins in March at Trinidad were 6-5 and 10-3. WNCC then won the 3-game series at Cleveland Field, winning 3-2, 5-4, and 13-4.
“We played them well all season long,” Jones said. “They will throw their number one pitcher and we have seen him twice and it has been good games. We expect him to come at us with the fastball and the put-away slider. We know their line-up well. We know what they can do and the guys to be careful with, so it should be a good matchup.”
The Southeast contest saw the Cougars outhit Southeast 10-5 and most of the offensive weapons came from the bottom of the lineup as Harrison Yates and Ty McAninch each had two RBIs and a double. Mitch Osborne led the way with three singles, while Yates and Luis Alcantara each had two hits.
Jones said his team played well all the way around in the play-in game to get the chance to face Trinidad.
“We played really good today. Parker was really good for us on the mound. He had excellent command and his put-away slider today,” Jones said. “We played solid defense behind him and then offensively we competed for our bats and came up with big hits with guys on base like we needed to. It was an all-around team effort.”
Southeast struck first with two in the second inning. WNCC answered with four in the second on a Yates run-scoring double followed by a 2-run double by McAninch. WNCC led 4-2 after two before the rains came and play was stopped.
Thursday’s action saw WNCC pick up the offense with a single run in the third as Ethan Miller walked and scored on a Yates single for a 5-2 lead.
Southeast came back to slice the lead to a single run at 5-4 with two in the fourth. WNCC immediately responded with three in the fourth themselves. The big hits in the frame were run-scoring singles by Alcantara and Michael Felton for the 8-4 lead.
From there, Parker and the Cougar defense took over allowing just two hits the rest of the way for the win.
Kale Litzelman started the game on Wednesday and went three innings in allowing three hits, two runs, and striking out six. Parker took over on Thursday, tossing five innings in allowing two hits and two runs while striking out eight before Garrett DeClue closed the game with a perfect 1-2-3 ninth inning.
Jones said they just need to keep playing like they did against Southeast to make some noise in the tournament.
“We have been playing well for the past month,” Jones said. “If we continue to fight for our at bats and be real difficult outs and that will give us scoring opportunities. Then it will take our defense to hold them down. If we can play like this, we have a chance.”
Friday’s first-round game with will be broadcast on Sunny 99.3FM.
Southeast 020 200 000 – 4 5 1
WNCC 041 300 00x – 8 10 2
WP – Hunter Parker.
2B – Ty McAninch, and Harrison Yates.