CASA GRANDE — On the strength of a complete game from senior Jordan Ragsdale, Casa Grande Union beat Marana 2-1 for its fourth straight victory Tuesday as the Cougars inched closer to a playoff berth.
In a classic pitchers’ duel, Ragsdale held on for a win in a tough battle with Marana’s Gabe Ridenour, who was dominant in his own right. Ragsdale pitched seven innings, allowing just three hits and one unearned run with three strikeouts and four walks.
Marana (8-6, 6-3 5A Sonoran) put the tying run on base in the top of the seventh after Shea Prahl drew a two-out walk. But Ragsdale struck out the next batter with a 3-2 curveball to end the game.
“JD (Ragsdale) threw the ball very well tonight, and their kid (Ridenour) is pretty good,” CG Union coach John Batina said, laughing in a way that expressed relief to beat such a tough opposing pitcher. “JD was just a little bit better.”
CG Union (7-4, 5-2) scraped together two runs against Ridenour in the first inning, which was just enough to get the victory with the way Ragsdale pitched. He has battled injuries but is the current ace of the Cougars staff. In Ragsdale’s previous start against Tucson Flowing Wells on April 13, he tossed five shutout innings with five strikeouts.
Ridenour, who came in averaging nearly two strikeouts per inning this season, punched out eight batters in six innings with a lively fastball and a wicked curve. He surrendered six hits and walked five.
The Cougars sent eight batters to the plate in the first inning, with the first three batters reaching base. Zack O’Dell led off with a single and stole second. Jalen Melecio drove him in with a single. Cole Carmichael then reached on an infield single and later scored on a wild pitch.
Jacob Marshall had two hits, including a popup that dropped between three defenders, and Adam Blunt had an infield single. Kanyen Reyna reached base twice with a pair of walks.
The Cougars had chances to tack on runs later in the game but could not get the job done.
Their biggest opportunity came in the fourth inning when they loaded the bases with one out after a couple of walks and Marshall reaching on an error. But Melecio grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
A big reason why the CG Union offense struggled was Ridenour, who has some electric stuff. He now has 51 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings and has allowed just 18 hits.
The Cougars are on a roll, having won five of their last six. Batina said his team is playing its best baseball of the season, and it’s coming at the right time.
“I would much rather be starting to peak toward the end of the season than come out guns blazing and then go stale,” he said. “I’m happy with where we are. We can always do better.”
There was a glitch in the 5A power rankings Tuesday, which had CG Union at No. 23, falling three spots after beating No. 4 Tucson Sunnyside. Once fixed, the Cougars rocketed up to No. 13 following their wins over Sunnyside and No. 18 Marana.
The top 16 teams will qualify for the state playoffs, and CG Union has five regular season games left on the schedule.