The Western Nebraska Community College baseball team moved into championship day after posting two elimination wins Friday in the Region IX tournament at Cleveland Field.
The Cougars opened up the day eliminating Northeastern Junior College 8-0 before taking out McCook Community College 10-7 in the night cap.
WNCC will face Trinidad State Junior College Saturday at noon in the first championship game. The Trojans earned a spot in the championship with an 8-1 win over McCook on Friday. WNCC needs to beat Trinidad twice with an if-necessary game to be played 30 minutes after the first contest.
Lucas Piatchek, who had a big 3-run home run against McCook, said the team played well to move into the championship.
“We fought hard. These were two big games with the season on the line for us,” Piatchek said. “We just battled all day and got both wins.”
The Cougars had little trouble against NJC as Claude Bova allowed just four hits and struck out six in getting the seven-inning win.
WNCC managed nine hits in the win against the Plainsmen, including two doubles from Brandon Bachar and a triple from Alex Achtermann.
Piatchek said the offense played well with clutch hits something they didn’t have on Thursday when they fell to McCook 3-2.
“Yesterday we faced a good pitcher and today we battled all day at the plate,” Piatchek said. “we had some good approaches, played good defense, and put some runs together.”
WNCC scored 18 runs in the two games and pounded out 17 hits.
In the opener, WNCC scored twice in the second and three times in the third for a quick 5-0 lead. WNCC went on to added three more runs to call the game via the 8-run rule.
Three players finished with two hits each. Brandon Bachar had two doubles and a run scored, while Lincoln Trujillo had two singles, a RBI, and a run scored. Brock Randals also had two singles with a run scored, RBI, and a stolen base.
Alex Achtermann also added a triple with two RBIs.
Game two was an interesting game. McCook outhit WNCC 15-8, but the Cougars took advantage of four McCook errors to post the 10-7 win.
WNCC jumped out quick with three runs in the first including a solo home run by Lincoln Trujillo. McCook came back to tie the game at 3-3 with a run in the third and two in the fourth.
The Cougars rebounded quickly, scoring one in the fourth and then plated five in the fifth for a 9-3 lead. The big hit was Piatchek’s 3-run home run, which turned out to be the winning hit.
Piatchek said he got a good pitch to hit.
“We had a good approach against their guy [McCook pitcher],” he said. “I think their coach left him in the game a little too long and I got a good pitch to hit over the heart of the plate and we got those runs. We needed those.”
They did because McCook added three in the sixth and one in the seventh to slice the lead to 9-7. WNCC added one insurance run in the seventh and then held on through big defensive plays.
Ty Benson and Brock Randals each had two hits for the Cougars. Benson scored a run and had a RBI, while Randals had two singles, two RBIs, and a run scored.
Achtermann finished with two RBIs, while Piatchek had three RBIs with his fifth-inning home run.
Jacob Pekol picked up the win on the mound, going five innings in scattering 10 hits, allowing five runs, and striking out four. Angel Cortes tossed 3 1/3 innings in scattering five hits, allowing two runs and striking out two. Zac Moran picked up the save, getting a game-ending double play after throwing just three pitches.
Piatchek said the team has to continue swinging the hot bat in the championship against Trinidad.
“We just have to come out and battle again, honestly,” he said. “Our pitching has been good all year and it has to be good again tomorrow. Then we also have to continue swinging the bat.”
NJC 000 000 0 – 0 4 1
WNCC 023 001 2 – 8 9 0
WP – Claude Bova; 2B – Brandon Bachar 2; 3B – Alex Achtermann.
McCook 000 010 000 – 1 5 0
Trinidad 203 010 01x – 7 12 0
WP – David Gaulhier; HR – Cornrado Diaz 2; Michel Dagenais.
McCook 001 203 100 – 7 15 4
WNCC 300 150 10x – 10 8 1
WP – Jacob Pekol, S – Zac Moran; 2B Ryan Grasser; HR – Lucas Piatchek, Lincoln Trujillo.