The Western Nebraska Community College baseball team avoided a three-game sweep against visiting Otero Junior College by posting a 7-6 Empire Conference win in 10 innings on Monday afternoon at Cleveland Field in Scottsbluff.
After Otero won Sunday’s doubleheader by scores of 7-1 and 6-2, the Cougars were able to escape with a victory in Monday’s finale when Brandan Maher scored all the way from first base on a throwing error in the bottom of the 10th.
Zach Berg earned the win on the mound in relief. Berg, who entered out of the bullpen in the seventh, held Otero scoreless without giving up a hit the rest of the way.
“This was a huge win,” Berg said. “This was such an important game for us and I have a feeling this is going to set us off on a hot streak. This win is what we really needed right now. It was important to all the guys that we come out and win this game.”
The win kept WNCC right in the thick of the race for the Region IX Tournament. WNCC sits fifth right now in the standings. The top four qualify for the tournament.
“We are getting closer to the conference tournament, so our goal is to start winning a lot of the next few games here so we can have a chance to make a run for it,” Berg said.
WNCC put Sunday’s losses to Otero behind by jumping out to an early lead in Monday’s game. The Cougars plated two runs in the bottom of the first. Brandan Maher scored the first with a run-scoring single that plated Esai Hernandez. Maher would come in to touch the plate after stealing home.
WNCC later added single runs in the third, fourth and fifth to hold a 5-3 advantage through six. Jonathan Bermudez had a 2-run home run in the third, while Tyler Schubert had a solo shot in the fourth.
Otero jumped into a 6-5 lead with three runs in the top of the seventh. However, WNCC pulled even with a run in the bottom of the frame with Hernandez scoring on a error.
WNCC won the game in the 10th after Berg and the Cougar defense sat the Rattlers down one-two-three in the top of the 10th.
“Today we had our mindsets on forgetting about Sunday and coming out here because it is a new day,” Berg said. “We all set our attitudes that this was a real important game. We came out and gave it our all and found a way to win.”
Berg finished the game with five strikeouts. He was one of three pitchers used in the contest. Hunter Parker got the start and struck out nine in 6 1/3 innings. Kale Litzelman also saw action in relief.
WNCC finished the game with nine hits. Mitch Lightbody led the offensive attack with three hits. Bermudez followed with a pair of hits, including a home run. Shubert also homered for the Cougars.
Maher and Hernandez both scored two runs. Maher also drew a pair of walks.
WNCC, now 9-29 overall on the season, will return to action on Thursday at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colorado.
Otero 001 020 300 0 – 6 6 3
WNCC 201 110 100 1 – 7 9 2
WP – Zach Berg.
HR – Tyler Shubert, Jonathan Bermudez.