Western Nevada College baseball coach D. J. Whittemore has so much faith in Kevin Taylor that he has no qualms about giving his left-handed slugger the green light on a 3-0 pitch.
Taylor rewarded that confidence when he hammered an Austin Tipton pitch over the fence in right-centerfield fence for a two-run homer to cap a six-run fourth inning and spark Western Nevada College (11-9, 4-0) to an easy 10-2 over Colorado Northwestern in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader at John L. Harvey Field.
In the nightcap, Sean Potkay ripped a grandslam in the bottom of the first, and the Wildcats cruised to an 8-2 win and a Scenic West Conference sweep.
Colorado Northwestern is just what the doctor ordered for a team that was struggling a bit at the plate. The Spartans are traditionally the worst pitching team in the conference, and the Wildcats feasted the final three games of the series.
"You can't do any better than 4-0," WNC coach D.J. Whittemore said after his team outscored the Spartans 33-6 in the four-game series. "I'm happy about that."
Another happy guy is Taylor, who went 4-for-6 with three runs scored and five RBIs in the Saturday sweep of the hapless Spartans.
"I'm seeing it pretty good right now," said Taylor, who also made a nice diving stop at third base to take away a hit. "I'm getting some quality swings."
Especially his 3-0 swing that resulted in a homer. The Wildcats, who led 2-0 after two, had already scored four times in the inning for a 6-0 lead thanks to a two-run double by Pat McMeel and run-scoring singles by Connor Eppard and Tanner Nielsen before Taylor's blast.
"He (Whittemore) gave me the hit away sign," Taylor said. "I was able to get a good piece of it. You don't really try to hit homers, they just happen."
"I can't get him to swing 3-0 when I give him the green light," joked Whittemore. "I've let him (do that) a lot of times. He shows good pitch selection up there. He's patient. Pat hit the ball well. Since we started winning, he's hitting and catching better."
Chris Garrison and Jason Wittwer combined for five shutout innings. Matt Robertson came on in the sixth and yielded both of Colorado's runs. One scored on a single by Tyler Thurston and one scored on an error.
Garrison, who was credited with the win, only faced 10 batters in his stint.
"He had a sore back," Whittemore said. "He wouldn't have gone more than four or five innings. We wanted to get the bullpen some work anyway."
Taylor, who finished with four RBIs in the first game, doubled home a run in the sixth and then scored on Taylor Smart's sacrifice fly to complete the scoring.
Potkay, Eppard and Hendrix all had two hits.
Colorado Northwestern saved its ace, James Sanchez for the final game, and that strategy backfired big time.
Sanchez walked the first two hitters he faced, and Taylor singled to load the bases. Potkay fell behind 0-1, and when Sanchez threw another off-speed pitch, Potkay jumped on it with a vengeance, launching a towering drive to left to give the Wildcats a 4-0 lead.
"I wasn't thinking about it all," Potkay said. "I was just trying to put the ball in play. He left the change up in the zone."
"That was a great job by Potkay," Whittemore said. "He sat on that first breaking ball, and was ready for the second one, and he hit it hard."
Kody Gorden, the second-game starter for WNC was touched for two unearned runs in the third as Zach Hendrix committed two errors, one fielding and one throwing, at second base.
The Wildcats added four more in the bottom of the third on just one hit en route to an 8-2 lead. Reliever Jacob Bailey walked five batters in the inning, and the Spartans also made an error. Anthony Thompson, the third CN pitcher, got the last out of the inning and then blanked the Wildcats over the next three innings.
Gorden departed after getting one out in the third, turning the ball over to Anthony Consiglio, who pitched 3.2 innings of two-hit ball to finish up.
"Kody did a good job," Whittemore said. "He pitched through a couple of errors. Anthony has been our best pitcher so far. He keeps the ball down around the knees."
Hendrix collected two hits for WNC in the second game.