The Western Nebraska Community College softball team manufactured runs when needed and advanced to the Region IX championship series with a sweep over Otero Junior College in the first-round of the Region IX tournament Tuesday at Volunteer Field.
In the opener, WNCC scored six late runs to overcome a slow start for the 8-5 win. The second game saw Whitney Fields strike out six and the Cougar bats scored single runs in the fifth and sixth inning to capture the 4-3 win.
The Cougars will know wait to see who they play in the Region IX championship series this weeekend at Volunteer Field. Trinidad State and McCook will play their first-round series Wednesday with the winner come to Scottsbluff for the Region IX championship.
Fields, who scattered seven hits and delivered some big pitches to stymie Otero scoring treats, said they team did things they needed to do for the wins.
"The first game we came back from behind and that was just really good for us because we have been coming back as a team and playing well," the sophomore pitcher said. "We came back and won. Then, in the second game, they were ahead, we were ahead, and we never let up and we beat them by one run. And, Otero is a good team."
The first game the two teams combined for 26 hits, but it was the 14 hits that the Cougars generated that were impressive, especially since the Cougars had just three extra base hits, all doubles from Jasmine Wessel, Celyn Whitt, and Lauren Oxford.
The second game, the Cougars had just nine hits and three doubles. Whitt had two and Christian Bobian had one. Each time, though, the Cougars came through with big hits and key stolen bases to manufacture runs.
"We just strung together a lot of good hits and came back from behind," Fields said. "It was good win for the offense. The pitchers always know that the hitters have our backs."
The second game, however, it wasn't necessarily the offense, but the defense that helped the Cougars to the win. With Fields in the circle, she relied on her defense to get the job done and they did, including turning a key double play in the second inning.
"It all started with my fielders," Fields said about earning the second game win. "Starting with the second inning when we got that huge double play when they were getting hits, I knew the team had my back. It is easy to pitch when you know your teammates are there. That was a big team win."
Otero struck first in the second with a single run before WNCC plated two in the third for a 2-1 lead on three singles including a run-scoring single by Sawyer.
Otero came back with two in the fifth for a 3-2 lead. WNCC manufactured single runs in the fifth and sixth to get the win. The fifth saw Bobian gets the excitement started with a double. She would then score on a groundout by Haille Weber to tie the game.
WNCC won the game in the next inning. Oxford led off the inning after getting hit by a pitch. Oxford was then lifted for a pinchrunner in speedy Cassie Jones. Jones was sacrificed over to second and scored on a Courtney Medina single for the go-ahead run.
Fields then shut the door on the Otero bats in the seventh, striking out the first two batters and then inducing a lazy pop fly that Whitt calmly got for the winner.
WNCC was led at the plate by Kenzie Sawyer with a 3-for-3 game with three singles, an RBI, and three stolen bases. Bobian, Whitt, and Courtney Medina each had two hits.
Fields earned the pitching win by tossing seven strong innings in scattering seven hits – all singles and allowing just three runs.
The first game was just as competitive. Otero held a 3-2 lead after four innings. It was the fifth and sixth innings in which the Cougars opened up, scoring two in the fifth with two outs. WNCC had four hits in the frame, including a run-scoring double by Oxford to tie the game. Whitt then put the team ahead with a run-scoring single that scored Oxford.
WNCC added four insurance runs in the sixth on four hits. Wessel had a run-scoring double in the inning followed by Oxford collecting a run-scoring single.
The Cougars pounded out 14 hits with six players recording two hits in Medina, Bobian, Weber, Wessel, Oxfore, and Whitt. Wessel finished with a double and two RBIs, while Oxford had a double, two RBIs, and two runs scored. Bobian also scored twice with a stolen base.
The two wins gave the Cougars 51 on the season. WNCC, 51-10, have now won 50 games for four straight season.
Otero 100 200 2 – 5 12 2
WNCC 001 124 x – 8 14 1
WP – Andy Hancock; 2B – Jasmine Wessel, Celyn Whitt, Lauren Oxford.
Otero 010 020 0 – 3 7 0
WNCC (51-10) 002 011 x – 4 9 2
WP – Whitney Fields; 2B – Christian Bobian, Celyn Whitt 2.