PRESCOTT — Advancing to the NJCAA World Series was hardly a shocker for the seventh-ranked Central Arizona College baseball team. The manner in which the Vaqueros dominated while going 3-0 in last week’s Western District tournament bordered on the spectacular, however.
Using metal bats for the first time this season, Central (48-7) clubbed 15 home runs during the tournament in defeating Western Nebraska 13-4 before disposing of host Yavapai 22-3 and 15-8. The Vaqueros never trailed at any point in the tournament.
“We played well, which is kind of what I expected,” CAC coach Anthony Gilich said. “Our pitchers did an excellent job, our defense didn’t give them any extra outs and our hitters did a good job of scoring runs.”
Central is the defending national champion (nationals were not held in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic) and will be making its seventh trip to the World Series, which begins Saturday in Grand Junction, Colorado. First-round matchups for the 10-team, double-elimination tournament are due to be released Monday.
Although the Vaqueros were swept 2-0 by No. 18 Yavapai in the Region 1 title series, they stayed alive in the postseason because Region 1, as host, had two teams in the four-team district tourney — something that occurs every third year.
Central took full advantage of the second chance. Gilich said there was no need to give his players any fiery pep talks.
“The guys are self-motivated,” he said. “They knew what was at stake. It was ‘just get back to work’ for them.”
One of CAC’s goals going into the district tourney was to hold opponents to single-digit scoring. Mission accomplished.
“Our pitchers did a real good job of making them swing and miss,” Gilich said.
No opponent scored more than two runs in any inning.
The Vaqueros committed just two errors total, another noteworthy accomplishment.
“The ball does some different things coming off metal bats, but our guys did a good job of adjusting,” Gilich said.
Jake Jarvis had two of Central’s five home runs in Thursday’s victory over Region 9 champ Western Nebraska (26-29). JD McLaughlin, Dayton Dooney and Devon Dixon also went deep during the eight-inning game.
Jarvis and McLaughlin both had four RBIs and Dooney finished with three. Getting two hits apiece were Preston Godfrey, McLaughlin, Dooney, Jarvis and Dixon. Seven of CAC’s 12 hits went for extra bases, including a triple by McLaughlin and a double by Dooney.
Starter Hunter Omlid (13-0) allowed four runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out eight, walked three and hit one. Drew Sommers closed with 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
The Vaqueros led 4-0 after three innings and 8-3 after six before outscoring Western Nebraska 5-1 in the final two frames.
Central concluded Friday’s 22-3 drubbing of Yavapai with a 10-run seventh inning. The Vaqueros scored four in the third and four in the fifth. Six of their 13 extra-base hits were home runs.
Leading the way at the plate were Tyler Griggs (5 for 5, four RBIs, home run, double), Kiko Romero (4 for 5, four RBIs, two homers, double) and Dusty Garcia (3 for 4, three RBIs, two homers, triple).
Hayden Seldomridge belted a three-run homer in his lone at-bat. McLaughlin went 3 for 4 with a double, and Jarvis had two doubles. Contributing one RBI apiece were McLaughlin, Jarvis, Matt Aribal, Godfrey, Dooney and Dixon. One of CAC’s 21 hits was Aribal’s double.
Starter Mat Olsen (11-0) allowed three runs (two earned) and six hits in six innings. He struck out nine, walked two and hit one. Daniel Davila pitched a scoreless seventh.
Saturday’s game against Yavapai (34-21) went the full nine innings. The Vaqueros led 7-2 after three and 11-4 after four. CAC’s lead was 12-7 going into the top of the seventh, but the Roughriders would get no closer.
Three Central pitchers combined for 17 strikeouts. Starter Tyler Woessner (8-1) had seven in his five-inning stint. Leo Palacios struck out seven of the 12 batters he faced in 2 2/3 innings. DJ Carpenter came on to notch the final four outs, striking out three.
Seth Beckstead homered, tripled and drove in five runs. Dooney (2 for 5, two RBIs) also homered, as did Garcia and Jarvis. One of Central’s 10 hits was a double by Griggs.
No. 13 Southern Nevada — the Region 18 champion — went 1-2 in the tournament, defeating Western Nebraska and losing twice to Yavapai to finish with a 46-17 record.