The Western Nebraska Community College baseball team couldn't get the clutch hits when they needed in falling to McCook Community College 3-2 in the opening game of the Region IX baseball tournament at Cleveland Field Thursday.
The Cougars will look to bounce back Friday at 3 p.m. when they face Northeastern Junior College in an elimination contest. NJC fell to Trinidad State Junior College 9-1 Thursday. McCook and Trinidad will play at noon Friday with the winner advancing to Saturday's championship while the loser will face the WNCC/NJC winner at 6 p.m. Friday.
WNCC coach Mike Jones said his team just couldn't get the hits when they needed.
"We came up short with a few at bats when we had guys in scoring position. But it was a well-played game on both sides. It was a good ball game," he said. "I thought our at bats against Adams were good at bats. They were competitive at bats and better than what we had against him a week ago. We were a few base hits or even a ground balls to the shortstop or second base with runners at third base short. We were that close of coming away with a victory."
It was definitely a good ball game between the two squads. McCook's Chase Adams, after giving up two early runs to WNCC, settled in and finished the complete-game performance with 12 strikeouts.
What hurt WNCC was leaving too many base runners on base, especially at third base and in crucial innings. Jones said scoring those runs is vital.
"It is extremely important. With our offense and the ability to execute and discipline at the plate is something that has gotten us here throughout the conference season," he said. "That is what won us games and that is what will win us games. We have to make sure we have those quality at bats with runners in scoring position."
Most of McCook's runs came off of solo home runs. McCook belted two from the bats of Keanu Van Kuren and Dominic Paratore in the first and seventh innings.
WNCC went up 2-1 in the second as Benson delivered a 2-out single to score Brock Randels for the lead.
McCook tied the game with a run in the sixth and then went ahead with a solo home run in the seventh.
WNCC had plenty of opportunities to tie or grab the lead. The Cougars left runners in scoring position in the third, eighth and ninth innings. The eighth was a prime scoring chance as Achtermann singled followed by a Lincoln Trujillo double. WNCC couldn't get the hit to tie the game.
McCook outhit WNCC 9-8. Benson and Achtermann each had two hits for the Cougars. Benson scored a run and had a RBI. Achtermann also had a RBI, while Randels scored a run.
WNCC will look to get back on track Friday as they face NJC. Jones said that Claude Bova will start on the mound in the 3 p.m. elimination game.
Jones said the team just need to play well to get the win.
"I think the keys for us is to continue to pitch well and continue to play defense behind the pitching," he said. "Then it will come down to getting guys on base and then getting quality at bats with guys in scoring position."
WNCC 110 000 000 – 2 8 1
NJC 000 001 00 – 1 8 1
Trinidad 003 000 5 1 – 9 7 0
WP – Jose Torres, LP – Spenser Dexter; 2B – NJC (Easton Adler, JT Patterson); HR – Trinidad (David Gauthier, Michel Dagenais).