TRINIDAD, Colo. – The Western Nebraska Community College baseball team dropped two games at the Region IX tournament in Trinidad, Colorado, to Lamar Community College in the championship games to end their season.
The Cougars nearly had their second Region IX title in the first game leading 5-4 in the ninth before falling to Lamar 6-5 in 11 innings. The if-necessary game saw WNCC trail 9-1 before mounting a comeback to trail 9-7. In the end, the Lopes earned a 19-7 win to capture the Region IX title and host the West Districts.
WNCC, who won three games to get to Sunday's championship game, finished the season at 26-29. WNCC topped Southeast 8-4 in a play-in game on Thursday before earning a 3-2 win over Trinidad State on Friday in the first round. WNCC defeated Lamar 6-5 on Saturday to move into the championship.
WNCC coach Mike Jones said while the result was disappointing, his squad had a good season a good run through the regional tourney.
"We had a very successful season overall," Jones said. "When you look at our style of play and the mistakes we were making early in the season and you compare that to our style of play and lack of mistakes at the end of the year, you can look at the progress this group has made and we all can be extremely proud of them. They grown so much as players and grew a lot as a team."
Jones said his team showed plenty of fight in the tournament and while they came up short, they battled.
"We made an excellent run at the end. We played tight ball games in the regional tournament. Nobody ever panicked all the way into the championship game. Brevin Owen hits the home run to put us up. We were one out away from moving on and being Region IX champions. Nobody is to blame. It was just one of those unfortunate situations where Lamar caught a few breaks and we end up on the wrong end."
The first championship game was close with Brevin Owen doing everything he could to get the Cougars a regional title. Owen was a double shy of hitting for the cycle. WNCC trailed 3-1 through three innings before tying the game at 3-3 with two in the fourth and then took a 4-3 lead with a single run in the sixth.
The fourth started with Owen and Felton getting singles and Ethan Miller earning a walk to load the bases. Luis Alcantara singled home Owen and then Braden Lofink earned a walk to force in the tying run. WNCC left the bases loaded to end the inning.
The sixth saw the Cougars take a 4-3 lead when Arnoldo Maltos-Garcia singled home Alcantara.
Lamar came right back with a run in the bottom of the sixth. Owen gave WNCC plenty of momentum in the ninth when he blasted a 2-out solo home for the 5-4 lead.
WNCC was just one out from capturing the regional title when Lamar put together a single and then a run-scoring double to tie the game and force extra innings.
WNCC had their chances in the 11th as they loaded the bases with two outs but couldn't get a run across. Lamar then scored the winning run in the 11th for the victory and force an if-necessary game.
Lamar outhit WNCC 14-11 in the contest. Owen had four hits in the contest including a triple, home run, two runs scored, a RBI, and a stolen base. Fritsch and Michael Felton each had two hits.
WNCC had a strong start on the mound from Chandler Young. Young went six innings in scattering eight hits, surrendering four runs and striking out one. Devin DeBoer tossed two innings in allowing two hits and striking out one. Garrett DeClue took the loss, tossing the final two innings in allowing four hits and two runs while striking out one.
The if-necessary championship game saw Lamar jump out to a 9-1 lead after two innings. The Cougars battled back, scoring five times in the third to cut the lead to 9-6.
Mitch Osborne started the third with a single and scored on a Miller single. The big hit in the frame was a Lofink single that scored two followed by a Ty McAninch run-scoring single to cut the lead to 9-6.
WNCC added another run in the fifth to cut the lead to 9-7 as Lofink scored on a wild pitch.
That was as close as WNCC could get as Lamar scored eight times in the sixth and twice in the eighth to put the game away.
The two teams combined for 31 hits and 26 runs. Lamar outhit WNCC 19-12. Alcantara finished with three hits while Lofink and Ty McAninch each had two. Lofink had three RBIs and two runs scored, while McAninch had two RBIs.
Jones said the outlook for next year looks promising.
"The outlook for next year is good. We return some guys that got a lot of innings on a very good team this year that played very important roles for us," he said. "We expect those guys to come back even better and be the guys that will carry us from a year from now and hopefully we fill it in with some better players and we should OK."
Championship Game 1
WNCC 100 201 001 00 – 5 11 2
Lamar 201 001 001 01 – 6 14 0
LP – Garrett DeClue.
2B – Dermot Fritsch.
3B – Brevin Owen.
HR – Brevin Owen.
Championship Game 2
WNCC 015 010 000 – 7 12 0
Lamar 540 008 02x – 19 19 4
LP – Kyler Harris.
2B – Arnoldo Maltos-Garcia.