Oscar Perez's sixth-inning grand slam was the boost the Western Nebraska Community College baseball team needed to earn a split with McCook Community College Monday afternoon in Empire Conference contests at Cleveland Field.
McCook scored seven late runs to capture the first game 8-5. The second game saw WNCC come-from-behind with Perez's grand slam to earn the 7-6 win.
WNCC still remains second in conference play with a 6-4 record and 12-16 overall. McCook slips to fourth in the standings with an 8-6 record. Miles Community College, who won six games from Otero over the weekend, moves to third with a 7-5 record.
WNCC will look to stay in second when they travel to Northeastern Junior College for a doubleheader Tuesday.
Perez said the team played alright but had some hitting woes in the doubleheader.
"We played well. We had the first game [and then lost]. But that is fine. We went one and one on the day," the second-game hero said. "The second game, I believed in my team and we won."
WNCC's offense did ignite for timely hits in the second game in the sixth-inning when the Cougars finally found their groove. And they had to, too, trailing 6-3 with just two at bats left.
When Perez stepped to the plate in the sixth with a chance to score runs, he delivered, taking the full-count deep over the leftfield fence.
"I feel great that my team believes in me and I want to thank God and my team," he said. "My team always believes in ma and I took the confidence and I knew I was going to do something. It was a home run and I did it. I want to say thank you to God. When you play for Him, you do everything right. That is what happened. I felt so good because my team never gave up. Never. And we got the W."
WNCC's dramatic game two win was special. WNCC led 3-1 after scoring three runs in the third. The Cougars couldn't hold the lead as McCook scored five times in the fifth on three hits, including a 3-run home run by Nate Matuza.
WNCC stayed strong and got the offensive bats going in the sixth. Matt Maestas started things with a single followed by a one-out single. Ryan Grasser then loaded the bases earning a walk setting up Perez' dramatic home run, his fourth home run of the year.
WNCC managed just seven hits in the contest. Jack Pauley had two of the hits with a double and two RBIs. Perez had just one hit, his grand slam. The sophomore also had four RBIs, two runs scored and walked twice.
Montana Giesbrecht picked up the in relief, tossing 2 1/3 innings. Giesbrect allowed just one hit and two strike outs. Jose Monge started and went 4 2/3 innings, giving up six runs on six hits with six strikeouts.
Perez said Giesbrecht came in and did his job.
"Montana came in and did a great job. He came in and pitched really well," he said. "He never gave up either when we were losing 6-3. He did a great job on the mound."
Perez also had a good-hitting first game, going 3-for-3 with a double and a RBI. WNCC finished with 11 hits but had just two extra base hits. Grasser had the other extra base hit with a double in his two-hit, two-RBI night.
McCook's win in the opener was a come-from-behind affair. WNCC was cruising leading 4-1 after four. The Indians scored seven in the fifth and sixth to grab an 8-4 lead. The Cougars almost came back in a big seventh-inning rally.
WNCC loaded the bases with one out as Aaron Morrison delivered a 2-out single for one run but that is all the Cougars could get as they left the base loaded. A big key in the opening game was leaving eight runners on base.
McCook 000 143 0 – 8 9 0
WNCC 001 300 1 – 5 11 1
WP – Chase Adams, LP – Isaac Block; 2B – WNCC (Oscar Perez, Ryan Grasser), McCook (Nathan Schenck); HR – McCook (Doninic Paratore, Aidan Laurini, James Babic).
McCook 100 050 0 – 6 7 1
WNCC (12-16) 003 004 x – 7 7 1
WP – Montana Giesbrecht, LP – Cameron Burkey; 2B – WNCC (Jack Pauley), McCook (Dominic Paratore); HR – WNCC (Oscar Perez), McCook (C.J. Neumann, Nate Matuza).