Two big innings cost Odessa College in the first game of Friday’s WJCAC baseball doubleheader against New Mexico Junior College, but one very big inning in the second game allowed the Wranglers to salvage a split.
New Mexico Junior College won the opener 9-4, scoring five runs in the second inning and four in the sixth. Odessa College won the nightcap 13-3, scoring nine runs in the fifth inning before ending the game on the 10-run rule in the sixth at American Legion Park.
“It was great to get the win,” Wranglers’ coach Kurtis Lay said. “Game 1 we kind of let slip away, to be honest. I thought we had a good chance and (reliever Josef Cihlar) gave us a great opportunity to go get the first one, it just didn’t happen for us.
“But just to see us bounce back, not get too down on ourselves and actually grind out another game after losing Game 1 like that was certainly great to see.”
The Wranglers (13-11 overall, 5-1 WJCAC) remained tied with Clarendon College atop the conference standings, one game ahead of a four-team logjam that includes the Thunderbirds (16-6, 4-2). The series concludes Saturday with another doubleheader at NMJC’s Ray Birmingham Field.
In the opener, the Thunderbirds jumped on Wranglers’ starter Noah Bartlett (3-3) for five runs in the second — getting a two-run double from Daniel Hernandez, an RBI single from Joaquin Ballesteros and a sacrifice fly from Rody Barker.
Cihlar worked three shutout innings as Odessa College cut the margin to one, but the Wranglers were unable to get over the hump and the Thunderbirds put the game away in the sixth.
In the second game, Jake Dickerson’s two-run homer and Jacob Cubillos’ RBI single gave NMJC to a 3-0 lead in the second inning against Wranglers starter Eric Ogletree. The Thunderbirds had the bases loaded with one out in the fourth, but John Bridgeman came on to strike out the first two batters he faced.
Bridgeman (3-0) went 2 2-3 innings, allowing a hit and a walk, to get the win in the nightcap. Cihlar was charged with one earned run on six hits over 4 2-3 innings, but did not figure in the decision. He struck out five and Bridgeman struck out four.
“Both relievers did a great job,” Lay said. “To be honest, I’m a little concerned about the starters. We’ve got to be able to get out of the second inning without giving up eight runs in two games. We’ve just got to get deeper into ballgames with the starting pitching, and (NMJC is) a good club.
“I’d like to see our pitchers be more aggressive. I’d like to see more intent with each pitch that they throw.”
Thunderbirds reliever Mark Barillas (1-0) pitched 2 1-3 scoreless innings to get the win in the first game. Brent Pronger (1-1) recorded just one out in taking the loss in the nightcap.
In the opener, Odessa College came back on Robert Morales’ RBI double in the second, a bases-loaded walk by Deylan Moreno and a sacrifice fly by Mason McLenna in the third and Mitch Holding’s sacrifice fly in the fourth.
In each inning, the Wranglers stranded a runner at third, leaving the bases loaded in the third, and loaded the bases again in the sixth.
In the second game, Charlie Shipp and Hunter Avila — the bottom two spots in the order — started the comeback with a run-scoring groundout and an RBI single in the second, then Avila tripled in the tying run in the fourth.
“The whole order was executing what they needed to do,” said Avila, who went 3 for 3. “They say hitting is contagious, and that’s exactly what it was. The hitting got contagious and we all executed.”
The contagion took hold in the fifth as Odessa College sent 13 batters to the plate. Shipp, who went 3 for 4 with four RBIs, hit an inside-the-park homer and Harry Fullerton capped the outburst with a three-run double.
“Whenever the bottom of the order is good, we’re a pretty good offensive bunch,” Lay said. “It’s a matter of it all coming together. At times, the bottom of the order hasn’t produced. Today, we got production from them.”
NMJC…………. 050 004 0 — 9 10 1
Odessa………. 012 100 0 — 4 8 2
Anthony Montoya, Mark Barillas (4), Cade Acrey (7) and Rody Barker. Noah Bartlett, Josef Cihlar (3), Wellington Belen (7) and Mitch Holding. W — Barillas (1-0). L — Bartlett (3-3). 2B — NMJC: Barker 2, Ryan Rijo, Daniel Hernandez, Joab Gonzalez; Odessa College: Tresten Kennard, Robert Morales.
NMJC………………. 030 000 — 3 6 4
Odessa……………. 020 191 — 13 13 1
Camern Smith, Brent Pronger (5), Myles Lucky (5) and Rody Barker. Eric Ogletree, John Bridgeman (4) and Mitch Holding. W — Bridgeman (3-0). L — Pronger (1-1). 2B — NMJC: Jacob Cubillos, Soterio Ramirez; Odessa College: Harry Fullerton, Robert Morales. 3B — Odessa College: Holding, Hunter Avila. HR — NMJC: Jake Dickerson (1); Odessa College: Charlie Shipp (1).
Records — New Mexico Junior College 16-6 overall, 4-2 WJCAC; Odessa College 13-11, 5-1.
Team W L W L
Clarendon College………. 14 6 5 1
Odessa College………….. 13 11 5 1
New Mexico JC……………. 16 6 4 2
New Mexico Military Inst. 16 10 4 2
Howard College…………… 12 8 4 2
Midland College………….. 11 10 4 2
Frank Phillips College…….. 8 15 3 3
Western Texas College….. 6 14 1 5
Luna Community College. 6 18 0 6
El Paso Community Coll… 4 22 0 6
Clarendon College 15, Western Texas College 5
Clarendon College 15, Western Texas College 5
Frank Phillips College 12, Luna Community College 3
Frank Phillips College 22, Luna Community College 12
Howard College 10, El Paso Community College 3
Howard College 13, El Paso Community College 3
Midland College 9, New Mexico Military Institute 6
Midland College 19, New Mexico Military Institute 0
New Mexico Junior College 9, Odessa Co
Odessa College 13, New Mexico Junior College 3
Western Texas College at Clarendon College (DH), noon
El Paso Community College at Howard College (DH), 1 p.m.
Luna Community College at Frank Phillips College (DH), 1 p.m.
Midland College at New Mexico Military Institute (DH), 1 p.m.
Odessa College at New Mexico Junior College (DH), 2 p.m.