The NCMC Pirates Baseball season came to a close this past weekend after losing the first two games of the best of three sub-region matchup with Crowder College. Crowder, ranked 16th in the nation, got a 6-4 Friday afternoon win and a 21-5 Saturday decision against the Pirates. With the losses, NCMC finished the season with a 16-38 record.
Friday's game was close throughout. Starting pitcher Blake Collister threw the first four innings for the Pirates, allowing just two runs. When he exited the game, NCMC and Crowder were tied 2-2. In the top of the 5th inning, the Pirate took a 4-2 lead behind a leadoff double from Stay'Jawn Hunter and a single by Enrique Madera. The Pirates used situational hitting from there to plate the two runs. "In the fifth we saw the offensive execution that we'd been lacking for much of the year. It was great to see," commented Coach Hillerman.
Clinging to the two run lead, the Pirates called on Brandon Whitehead out of the bullpen. Whitehead, a starter for the entirety of the season for the Pirates, would throw the final four innings for the Pirates. "Brandon has been a top pitcher for us all season. We planned to use him out of the bullpen this series because we knew he was prepared for high leverage situations," remarked Coach Suttenfield. In the bottom of the 6th inning, Whitehead ran into a bit of trouble. Following an error by shortstop Enrique Madera to the leadoff batter of the inning, Whitehead gave up a two run homer. "Crowder had dangerous hitters. We knew runs would be scored in the series. Our goal was to minimize mistakes so that when big hits came less runs would be scored. Unfortunately, our error in the sixth was poorly timed," detailed Suttenfield.
The score would remain tied until the bottom of the 8th inning. Crowder got a leadoff single followed by a double. On the double, Pirates centerfielder Hunter drifted on a fly ball and was unable to haul it in. "That play was likely the difference between allowing no runs in the inning and allowing the two runs Crowder ended up with. Baseball is a game of inches and we came up just a bit short," stated Coach Hudlow. The two runs that ended up scoring in the frame came via bases loaded hit batters from Whitehead.
The Pirates offense was missing a couple major pieces in the opening game. Connor Quick was out battling the flu while Quinsly Balentien exited the game early with a knee injury following a collision at home plate. Top Pirate hitters in the game were Balentien (2-2, 1 run), Madera (3-5, 1 run) and Tanner Ryan (2-2).
Saturday's game saw the Pirates facing the tall task of trying to score off of Crowder's ace Aaron Ashby. With numerous professional scouts in the stands, the Pirates were able to grind out 5 runs off of the probable draftee. "I was proud of the at-bats our guys took off of Ashby. They did a good job of simplifying their approach and really made him work," commented Hillerman.
NCMC trailed 8-5 after putting up three runs in the bottom of the 5th inning. However, it would be all Crowder from there. The Roughriders scored 12 runs over the final 4 innings to secure the victory. "Crowder is an outstanding team. They kept the offensive pressure on us the entire game and we just didn't have enough pitching and defense to keep them down in the end," said Suttenfield. Taking the loss on the mound for the Pirates was Trae Brownell who surrendered 6 runs over 2.2 innings pitched.
Offensively, the Pirates got another excellent game from Madera who went 3-5 with 2 runs scored. Connor Quick returned with a 2-4 performance and drove in 2 runs. Catcher Jared Fry also went 2-4 while scoring once and driving in two.
While the season certainly didn't go the way the Pirates had hoped, the following single season and career records did get set in 2018.
Career Runs: Enrique Madera – 101
Career Hits: Enrique Madera – 152
Career Home Runs: Quinsly Balentien – 16
Career Batting Average: Connor Quick – 0.411
Career Saves: Lucas Hampton – 6
Single Season Runs: Enrique Madera – 54
Single Season Hits: Enrique Madera – 86
Single Season Save: Lucas Hampton – 4