By Kyle Inman
Northeastern Junior College baseball stayed hot on Monday in Sterling, winning a pair of games over Otero Junior College 13-8 and 16-2.
Cooper Bailey got the win on the mound in the first game, despite finding himself in some early trouble as the Plainsmen fell behind 5-1 in the top of the fourth inning.
The Plainsmen caught a break in the bottom half of the fourth when JT Patterson hit a ground ball that looked to be a double play, but there was an error on the toss at second. The error allowed the first run of the inning to score for the Plainsmen. Another error trying to turn a double play on a Luke Mondt grounder at first base allowed two more runs to score.
"That's baseball," coach Bryan Shepherd said. "We've told our guys all year if you play the game hard then things will happen your way. They gave us a chance to capitalize and we did a good job of taking advantage of that."
Down by one run, Zach Langerak hit a two-run homerun to give Northeastern the lead. The homer was Langerak's first of the season and Nico Nintze also added his first of the season a couple of batters later. Dakota Popham hit a sacrifice grounder to make the score 10-5 after the bottom of the fourth inning and the Plainsmen never looked back.
The Plainsmen added more runs in the bottom of the fifth as Conner McCafferty and Nintze got hits to bat in runners.
Bryce Evilsizer struck a batter out with the bases loaded in the top of the sixth to get out of potential trouble and Donald Goodson II finished off the game on the mound.
Kodee Martin also hit his first homer of the season and went 4-for-5 at the plate in the first game.
"We are doing a good job of putting ourselves in hitters' counts," Shepherd said. "We aren't chasing pitches out of the zone. We are making their pitchers throw strikes and doing a good job of hitting our pitch. When we are behind in the count, we've been doing a good job hitting mistake pitches which we weren't earlier in the season. We are starting to hit the ball well and work to our strength."
In game two, McCafferty started the offensive explosion in the bottom of the second inning with a deep double to the fence with two on and nobody out that scored two runs. Easton Adler and Martin were both walked with the bases loaded to give Northeastern a 4-0 lead. Popham hit a fielder's choice that scored a run and then a passed ball with Patterson at the plate added to a six-run inning.
With Zach Demchenko shutting Otero down early, the Plainsmen added to their lead in the bottom of the third. Mondt hit a single and then stole second before scoring on a Langerak single. Velez then hit a single that scored Langerak before Nintze hit a double. Adler was walked with the bases loaded to make the score 10-0.
Mondt reached base for the third time in the game with another walk in the bottom of the fourth. Velez hit a blood which gave him another RBI single and scored a run for the Plainsmen. Nintze doubled up the middle to score another run before Popham hit his 10th homerun of the season, a three-run blast to make the score 16-2.
Demchenko ended the game on the mound with a strikeout as the game was called due to the Plainsmen invoking the run rule after five innings.
The Plainsmen are playing their best baseball of the season at the end of the season as they've won 10 consecutive with a chance to win the league.
"Nothing really matters until the end of the year," Shepherd said. "We are putting our self in a good spot to make a run through the playoffs. We just have to stay hot and keep playing well. You always want to be the team playing well going into the playoffs."
The Plainsmen will try and keep the momentum going in the final two regular season games of the season in Sterling on May 6 against Western Nebraska Community College.
Kyle Inman: 970-526-9298, firstname.lastname@example.org