Western Nevada’s Baker has 10 Ks as Wildcats top Cisco
Western Nevada's Baker, top juco player in country, has 10 Ks as Wildcats top Cisco
Having been tagged by Perfect Game USA as the No. 1-ranked junior college baseball prospect in the nation, and with a fastball in the mid-90s, Western Nevada College’s Dylan Baker sees the batters’ stares.
“Sometimes after they foul one off, they stare at me,” Baker said. “I just laugh about it.”
Baker had plenty to laugh about Sunday as he logged 10 strikeouts in Western Nevada’s 9-2 win over Cisco (Texas) College in an elimination game at the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
Western Nevada (48-16, 1-1 JUCO) survived to play Iowa Western Community College at 10 a.m. today.
Cisco (44-15, 0-2), is heading home from its first JUCO World Series.
“A lot of guys are just happy to be here; we’re not,” Cisco coach David White said. “It’s a little disappointing, so I apologize if I seem down a little bit, but we just wanted to show better, and we didn’t. No apologies, we just didn’t play well, and it’s just not a good feeling.”
Baker, who has signed to pitch at Concordia (Calif.) University, had five strikeouts in the first two innings, despite a lingering cold and, recently, stomach flu. The 20-year-old said he has hit 98 mph on a radar gun, but did not come close to that Sunday.
White said Cisco was looking to take hacks at Baker’s fastball early. But the Wranglers missed. Then, Baker’s superb slider took over.
“I mean, he has one of the best sliders we’ve seen, and we had no chance,” White said. “We weren’t aggressive early. He’d get ahead in the count and throw that slider; we had no chance. He was very dominant and a very good pitcher.”
But when Baker gave up hits such as a two-run home run to Cisco’s Cody Tillotson in the sixth inning, Baker reverted to his standby defense mechanism: “I laugh about it,” he said. “It makes everything easier.”
Three-run doubles also makes pitching easier for Baker. In the third inning, when Western Nevada was ahead 3-0, right fielder Dillon Ness faced a bases-loaded, two-out, 3-2 count.
He slapped a line dive to center field. Cisco’s Heath Herrington charged, dove head-first, and appeared to catch the ball. But after a front roll, the ball was on the Suplizio Field grass.
Three runs scored against Cisco starter Brad Vachon, who went six innings and gave up nine hits.
Western Nevada took a 6-0 lead, but Wildcats coach D.J. Whittemore feared Ness’s hit would be ruled an out.
“I was afraid the umpire was going to say he caught it,” Whittemore said. “Until the next batter came up, I was worried.”
Ness finished 1 for 3 with three RBI, and catcher Neil Lawhorn went 3 for 4 for Western Nevada.
Tillotson finished 2 for 3 for Cisco, providing the Wranglers’ only runs with the two-run home run.
The Wranglers finally chased Baker with one out in the seventh inning after putting runners on first and third. When Brandon Jackson replaced Baker, he got Jake Armstrong to fly out to right field, but not without a swirling wind coming off the towering press box along the right-field side.
Ness made a rolling dive to end the threat.
Right fielders, beware.
“That wind coming off the press box swirls,” Armstrong said. “I check the grass, and it’s always swirling. The wind killed (the fly ball).”