Western Nebraska Community College baseball team received strong pitching and clutch hits to earn an Empire Conference doubleheader win over Northeastern Junior College Wednesday afternoon at Cleveland Field.
In the opener, the Cougars received strong pitching from Claude Bova and Zach Berg in earning the 4-3 10-inning win on a walk-off, bases loaded balk call. WNCC started game two with a bang, scoring seven runs and then picked home runs from Harrison Yates, Cole Williams, and Tyler Olson in picking up the 5-inning 12-0 win.
“These are big wins for us,” WNCC coach Mike Jones said. “With the conference standings the way they are, we really need to get on a roll and get on a win streak. This was a really good start for us and it gives a bunch of confidence going into the weekend.”
The two wins gave the team momentum they needed after dropping their last two conference games in the final innings.
“We have been a team that have had our ups and our downs this season and we had a lot of frustrating games,” Jones said. “For us to come out on top in game one and execute well late in the game, it gave us some confidence, some momentum. It has the guys believing again in how good of a team they can be. They really came out strong in the second game.”
Jones lauded the pitching staff, who performed well.
“We had excellent pitching today,” Jones said. “Claude Bova was really good. Zach Berg was really good. Jacob Pekol was really good. It is nice when you have three guys go out there and pitch as well as they did.”
The two games were different styles. The first game was an intense game with neither team plating a lot of runs. In fact, it was the pitching staffs and defense that dominated. WNCC received strong pitching from Claude Bova, the starter, and then Zach Berg finished off the game to get the win. The two NJC pitchers combined for 11 strikeouts.
Bova went six innings in allowing four hits, three runs, while striking out seven. Berg picked up the win, tossing the final four innings in allowing four hits, no runs, and striking out two.
NJC struck first with two runs in the fourth inning. WNCC came right back with a single run in the fourth to trail 2-1 on a Brandan Maher solo home run.
NJC pushed the lead to 3-1 with another run in the sixth. Once again, WNCC came back with two in the bottom of the sixth when Tyler Olson and Tyler Schubert each had run-scoring singles to tie the score.
Neither team scored again until the 10th inning and it was WNCC that did the damage. Mitch Lightbody and Cole Williams started the frame with singles. Jonathan Bermudez then loaded the bases with one out. That is where it got interesting as Williams was awarded home plate on a walk-off balk call for the win.
WNCC finished with 10 hits in the 10-innning contest. Lightbody had three hits with a run scored, while Olson, and Schubert each had two hits. Olson had a double with a RBI. Maher had the other extra base hit with a solo home run.
The second game saw Pekol go five strong innings in getting the 2-hitter. Pekol struck out eight and walked just one in facing just 19 batters.
Offensively, the Cougars took care of business early, scoring seven times in the first inning.
WNCC scores seven times in the first on six hits. WNCC loaded the bases to start the frame before Bermudez scored two with a single to make it 3-0. WNCC made it 7-0 after Maher had a double to score Tommy McRill.
The Cougars added four runs in the third. Harrison Yates started things with a 2-out, 2-run home run. Williams followed with another 2-out, 2-run home run to make it 11-0. WNCC added another run in the fourth on a Olson solo home run.
WNCC outhit NJC 13-2. Lightbody, Williams, Bermudez, and Tommy McRill each had two hits in the win. Lightbody had a double with two runs scored and a RBI, while Williams had a home run with two runs scored and two RBIs. Bermudez had a double with two RBIs, while McRill had two singles.
Olson and Yates each had home runs. Olson also scored two runs while Yates had two RBIs.
WNCC will be back in action Saturday and Sunday when they host McCook Community College in conference games. Saturday is a 9-inning contest and Sunday is a doubleheader.
NJC 000 201 000 0 – 3 8 0
WNCC 000 102 000 1 – 4 10 2
WP – Zach Berg
2B – Tyler Olson
HR – Brandan Maher
NJC 000 00 – 0 2 3
WNCC 704 1x – 12 13 1
WP – Jacob Pekol
2B – Brandan Maher, Mitch Lightbody, Jonathan Bermudez
HR – Cole Williams, Tyler Olson, Harrison Yates.