The Western Nebraska Community College baseball team couldn't get the hits they needed in the second game against McCook Community College, thus earning a split of an Empire Conference doubleheader Wednesday afternoon at Cleveland Field.
The first game was epic as Jack Pauley scored on a wild pitch in the eighth inning for the dramatic 6-5 win. The second game was just as intense. WNCC outhit McCook 6-4, but couldn't register the win as the Indians registered the 3-1 win.
"We pitched really well today. We competed real hard. We played solid defense," head coach Mike Jones said. "So we are making progress with pitching and defense. We just had a few poor at bats at crucial times in the game, but overall we still played well."
Even with the split, the Cougars control their own destiny for a playoff spot. The Cougars sit in fourth place with an 11-11 conference record and are 17-25 overall. McCook slides to 10-14 in conference and is in fifth.
WNCC will take on Lamar Community College in a crucial four-game series this weekend on the road. Lamar defeated Otero Wednesday evening 3-2 in 11 innings. Lamar is in second at 18-9 and winners of their last six games.
"We are right there for a playoff spot," Jones said. "Every game becomes an important game and they are going to pile up on us. It is important for our guys to continue to fight every inning of every game.
"We have to keep playing well when we go into Lamar. Lamar has a good pitching staff. They have been able to hold some guys here in the last month and their pitching staff has none a real good job. We are looking forward to the challenge and we will go down there and do our best."
WNCC could have had the sweep and made the playoff race even more interesting as only the top four teams make the playoffs. WNCC's bats, however, weren't clicking as well as they have in the past.
WNCC finished the doubleheader with a combined 13 hits and just two extra base hits. McCook also had 13 hits in the contest.
WNCC did, however, get the bit hits when they needed in the opening game. After McCook plated four runs in the fifth for a 4-0 lead, the Cougars didn't lay down. Instead, the bats came alive scoring four runs on four hits.
The fifth-inning all started with Jack Pauley getting plunked with a pitch. Matt Maestas followed with a single before Brandon Bachar singled in the first run. Isaac Block flowed with a run-scoring double before Ryan Grasser had a run-scoring single to cut the deficit to 4-3. Oscar Perez scored the tying run with a sacrifice fly.
Both teams added a single run in the seventh. McCook scored the go-ahead run with two outs. WNCC came right back. Bachar led off with a single. Pinch-hitter Garret Smith followed with a single that scored Bachar with the tying run sending the game into extra innings.
Beau Lofink came in and shut down the McCook bats in the eighth, giving the Cougars an opportunity to win the game in the bottom of the frame. Pauley started the rally with a one-out double. After moving to third on a ground out, Pauley scored the winning run on a wild pitch.
WNCC managed just seven hits in the game, led by the 2-hit attack from Bachar.
Lofink earned the win on the mound, tossing two innings in striking out two, allowing a run and scattering four hits.
While the Cougars got clutch hits in game one, that wasn't the case in game two. WNCC out hit McCook 6-4, but left five runners on base.
Brian Kelley pitched a strong game, going the distance in allowing just four hits with no walks and striking out six. It was WNCC's inability to get those hits when needed that cost them the game.
McCook scored twice in the fourth and once in the sixth for a 3-0 lead. WNCC started a comeback in the seventh. Landon Urban started the inning with a single and stroked on a Grasser groundout. That was the only run the Cougars could muster in the game.
WNCC was led at the plate by Landon Urban with three of the team's six hits. Only Perez, Pauley, and Grasser recorded a hit after that.
McCook 000 040 10 – 5 9 0
WNCC 000 040 11 – 6 7 1
WP – Beau Lofink; 2B – Isaac Block, Jack Pauley.
McCook 000 201 0 – 3 4 0
WNCC 000 000 1 – 1 6 1
LP – Brian Kelley.