SIGNAL PEAK — The disappointment of an agonizing loss for the Central Arizona College baseball team in the opener of Saturday’s home doubleheader against Yavapai was soothed by a blowout victory in the second game.
The third-ranked Vaqueros recovered from a 9-7 setback to register an 11-0 win that left them with a 39-5 overall record and a 29-5 mark in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference. The opener went eight innings — one more than regulation. Game 2 ended in the fifth under the 10-run rule, highlighted by Liam Evans and Leo Palacios combining for a no-hitter and Kiko Romero’s grand slam.
“I challenged the guys between games and they responded really well,” CAC coach Anthony Gilich said. “Doubleheaders are hard. You’ve got 20 minutes (between games) to flush a loss and refocus. We really needed to win, and we played well. We jumped on them pretty quick.”
The Vaqueros struck for three runs in the first inning, four in the second on Romero’s two-out slam, two in the third and two in the fourth.
Evans pitched four innings, striking out five and walking one. Palacios struck out the side in order in the fifth.
Romero started the scoring parade with an RBI single in the first. Devon Dixon had a run-scoring single in the first and an RBI walk in the fourth, Matt Aribal drove in two runs with a third-inning single, Ryan Grabosch was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the fourth and Tyler Griggs had an RBI fielder’s choice in the first.
Romero and Dixon both had two of CAC’s six hits.
Yavapai (24-17, 19-13 ACCAC) had a grand total of one hit and three baserunners through six innings in the opener before erupting against starter Mat Olsen and two relievers. The Roughriders overcame a 2-0 deficit with a four-run seventh, then pushed across five in the eighth after the Vaqueros forced extra innings by scoring two in the bottom of the seventh.
Central snapped a scoreless tie in the sixth, going up 2-0 without the benefit of hit. Romero drew a leadoff walk and eventually came home on an error. Dixon drove in the second run with a sacrifice fly.
Noah Turley led off the Yavapai seventh with a mammoth home run to left. A popout to short put the Vaqueros two outs away from a hard-fought victory. Then the craziness began.
Olsen surrendered three consecutive hits and a game-tying wild pitch before being replaced by Drew Sommers, who issued a walk to load the bases. Sommers struck out the next batter, then gave up Damone Hale’s two-run single.
JD McLaughlin doubled with two outs in the CAC seventh and Dayton Dooney followed with an RBI single. Pinch-runner Zack Stewart took third on Romero’s single, and Stewart came home on a throwing error by the catcher when Romero faked a steal of second.
The Roughriders picked up two more hits in the eighth — a two-run triple by CJ Valdez off Sommers and a Alton Gyselmon’s two-out, two-run single off DJ Carpenter. Yavapai’s final run came on a steal of home as part of a double steal.
Yavapai sent nine batters to the plate and had five hits in the seventh and sent eight to the plate in the eighth.
Central rallied for three two-out runs in the bottom of the eighth and had the bases loaded when the game ended on Romero’s scorching liner to left. Seth Beckstead made it 9-5 with an RBI single, and McLaughlin’s single drove in the final two runs.
Olsen was magnificent through six innings. The former Florence star struck out 12, retiring the side in order on strikeouts in the first and getting three in a row in the fourth following Kade York’s leadoff double. The only others to reach base against Olsen during that stretch were Valdez, who walked in the second and was cut down by catcher Beckstead on an attempted steal, and Travis Warinner, who was hit by a pitch in the third.
Olsen began the seventh having thrown just 75 pitches.
“The way Mat was throwing, I felt pretty confident,” Gilich said. “But then I think he got a little tired.”
McLaughlin was the lone player on either team with two hits. CAC finished with seven and Yavapai had eight. The Vaqueros left six runners in scoring position.
Central’s only hits through six innings were one-out singles by Jake Jarvis in the fourth and Preston Godfrey in the fifth.
CAC has two doubleheaders remaining in the regular season — Tuesday at Eastern Arizona and Saturday at home against Cochise. When the playoffs begin May 6, the Vaqueros are assured of hosting a three-team Region 1 double-elimination semifinal round. They have a 22-2 home record.