By JARYD CLINE, staff reporter
Entering their four game series against Saint Martin’s, two games out of first place, the Wildcats had a chance to tie Western Oregon University atop the Great Northwest Athletic Conference standings.
But when Central (26-16, 17-7 GNAC) dropped one game against SMU (5-35, 3-20), it kept them in second place and one game behind WOU.
Playing on the road for the first time since late March, the Wildcats started slow on offense, letting SMU build an early lead.
The Saints took a 6-3 lead heading into the top of the seventh, before the Wildcat bats began making serious contact. First it was senior catcher Kyle Sani who hit a solo home run to narrow the gap for Central. Then junior designated hitter Scott Stone singled up the middle to bring in one more Central run.
Down one run heading into the eighth inning, junior centerfielder Spencer Hannah’s perfectly placed sacrifice bunt tied the score at six heading into the final inning. Again, Hannah performed in the clutch, hitting an RBI single to left field, which brought in the go ahead run for Central. Senior pitcher Randy Button then shut down the Saints in the ninth, giving the Wildcats their first road win in almost a month.
The Wildcats came out hot and focused for Game 2, recording 15 hits in a 9-2 beat down. Eight Wildcats had a hit in the game and senior third baseman Marc Garza went 3-for-5 and scored two runs. Stone went 3-4 with four RBI while junior right fielder Ethan Sterkel went 2-4 with two runs.
Day 2 of the series was full of unexpected surprises, which saw the Saints win their fifth game of the season, defeating the Wildcats 5-4 in a 10-inning thriller.
Central was in full control of the game up until the four-run bottom of the seventh inning for the Saints, putting them on top 4-3. Junior second baseman Joel Johnsons RBI single tied the game, forcing extra innings to decide the outcome. SMU blanked Central in the top of the 10th and got help from right fielder Alex Bielaski, whose walk off home run gave the Saints their second win in their last 25 games.
The Wildcats out-hit the Saints 13-8 but failed to score when the game was on the line. Johnson finished the game 4-5 with two RBI.
There was no hangover from the previous loss for Central as they dismantled the Saints 10-3 in a game where heavy rains forced the game to be played the next day. SMU scored first, putting a three-spot on the scoreboard in the first inning, but was held scoreless for the remainder of the game. Sani went 3-5 with two RBI and junior centerfielder Joe Castro went 2-3 with two RBI. Central once again out-hit the Saints, which it did in each of the four games.
The Wildcats travel to take on Montana State University Billings this weekend as the GNAC regular season winds down. The winner of the doubleheader could potentially decide the regular season GNAC champion.