Ethan "Q" Miller had two 3-run home runs and seven RBIs in game one to help the Western Nebraska Community College baseball team earn a 16-10 win over Empire Conference-leading Northeastern Junior College Thursday afternoon at Cleveland Field.
WNCC, however, couldn't get the sweep as NJC played strong defense in allowing just five Cougar hits in game two for the 12-4 win.
WNCC moves to 11-21 on the season and 8-10 in conference. NJC remains atop the conference standings at 10-6 and 17-14 overall.
WNCC coach Mike Jones said the first game saw the Cougars bats come alive after a slow start.
"We came out a little shaky at the beginning of the first game," Jones said. "But Q Miller got us a big home run and we got some momentum going and some confidence at the plate, and we started putting together a bunch of positive at bats back-to-back and created a whole lot of scoring opportunities. So, it was nice to see our offense come alive and put up so many runs in game one."
WNCC did start slow, allowing two runs in NJC's first at bat. While the defense struggled in the opening frame, the offense responded in the bottom of the frame with five runs for a 5-2 lead.
Jones said hoe the team responded in the first inning was huge.
"It is a good group of guys; high character guys," he said. "Even when things are not going so well for us, they do a good job of keeping it together and find ways to put themselves in good positions. It paid off in the first game."
The first-inning comeback was huge as the Cougars scored five times on five hits. Dermot Fritsch had a run-scoring double, Luis Alcantara a run-scoring single, and then Miller took the first pitch deep over the rightfield fence for a 3-run bomb.
NJC cut the lead to 8-5 with three in the third, but the Cougars answer back with five in the fourth on just one hit, a run-scoring single by Braden Lofink for a 13-5 lead.
The Cougars put the game away with three in the fifth and it came with one swing of the bat from Miller as he launched his second 3-run home run of the game for a 16-8 lead.
Miller had the hot bat in the game, going 2-for-2 with two home runs, seven RBIs, and three runs scored. Matt Womack and Luis Alcantara each had three hits in the game. Alcantara had a double with three runs scored and two RBIs, while Womack had two runs scored.
Kyler Harris picked up the win, going three innings in allowing five hits and five runs while striking out two. Brandon Rollinson tossed one inning in giving up four hits and three runs, while SJ Mousseau finished off the game with three innings of work in allowing four hits and two runs and striking out two.
The second game saw NJC pound out 13 hits and held the Cougar bats quiet with five hits in scoring in four of the seven innings for the 12-4 win.
WNCC got behind early 4-0 before the Cougars sliced the lead in half with two in the second as Brevin Owen scored on a passed ball and then Miller scored on a Michael Pelton single.
WNCC fell behind 12-2 after NJC plated six in the fourth and two in the fifth. WNCC avoided the 10-run mercy rule by scoring a run in the fifth as Alcantara singled home Joey Olson. Fritsch closed out the scoring with a seventh inning solo home run.
Fritsch had the only extra base hit with his home run. The other hits were all singles.
Garrett DeClue took the loss on the mound, going three innings in allowing eight runs on eights while striking out three. Welinton Marian, Elliott McNeave, and Matt Womack also saw time on the mound. Womack had the best outing on the hill, tossing 2 1/3 innings in allowing just two hits with a strikeout.
WNCC will be back in action this weekend when they host McCook Community College in a 3-game series beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. One day will have a doubleheader and the other day will be a 9-inning game depending on weather conditions.
"McCook has some good pitching. Vargas, their left-handed pitcher beat us a week ago so we know we are going to face him," Jones said. "We have to be ready for the fastball changeup combination that he throws and do a good job of hitting with two strikes. We then have to keep their hitters off balance. They are very aggressive offensively and they will take a lot of big swings and they are very offensively-minded. We have to make sure we keep them off-balance."
NJC 203 030 2 – 10 13 3
WNCC 530 530 x – 16 13 1
WP – Kyler Harris.
HR – Q Miller 2, Ty McAninch.
NJC 220 620 0 – 12 13 2
WNCC 020 010 1 – 4 5 4
LP – Garrett DeClue.
HR – Dermot Fritsch.v