SIGNAL PEAK — After starting off the season playing seven games in three days, Central Arizona College had a two-week break before Saturday’s doubleheader against Eastern Arizona College.
The Vaqueras came out a bit rusty and split the day, dropping the first game 6-3 and then roaring back to run-rule the Gila Monsters, 12-3 in 5 innings.
EAC (4-5) was led by pitcher Reegan Leppien in Game 1. The freshman tossed a complete game and limited CAC (6-3) to just five hits and struck out six.
“We were kind of pressing a little bit,” CAC coach Shelby Davis said. “It’s our first home game, and I felt like we were kind of pressing and not really doing what we’re good at. It was definitely a little sloppy defensively, and offensively we were playing it safe.”
Half of CAC’s hits were home runs by Emily Churchill and Brooke Williams.
Churchill’s homer was a solo shot to center in the fifth inning, as the ball bounced off the top of the yellow plastic and back onto the field.
EAC’s outfielders thought the ball was still in play and threw to third as Churchill arrived to the bag safely. The home plate umpire signaled that the call was officially a home run and Churchill trotted her way home.
Wiliams’ blast came in the bottom of the seventh with one out. Sonia Solis reached base to the start the inning, and Churchill flew out to center field.
Starting in the circle for the Vaqueras was Sarah Norton, who allowed three hits, two runs and struck out five. Katelyn Woodard and Ana Rodriguez pitched in relief and each tossed two innings.
“It’s hard from a management standpoint,” Davis said of having five pitchers on the roster. “Making sure that they’re all getting what they need to be successful, but the nice thing is we have the flexibility to throw in five pitchers and having the flexibility to go 14 innings, obviously today was short. Just having a different arm so that the other team isn’t constantly seeing the same pitch, just having the versatility to throw different pitchers, and it’s really going to help our defense.”
The majority of EAC’s runs came by defensive miscues from the Vaqueras on routine plays and a play late in the game when Solis dove in shallow center field to catch the ball but couldn’t hold on to it.
Game 2 featured a different CAC team, as the bats came to life and the Vaqueras racked up 12 hits against EAC’s Alondrar Lugo and Ada Brown.
Lugo and Brown both went two innings and struck out one batter each.
Starting for the Vaqueras was Jessica Mercado, who tossed four innings and allowed two earned runs and three hits. The former Casa Grande Union star walked three and struck out three.
Andraya Romero came in for the final inning and allowed one hit and one run.
CAC had two four-run innings in the first and fourth. The Vaqueras trailed 1-0 after Taylor Murphy eventually came around to score.
Nicol Ley led off the bottom of the first with a double to center field and advanced to third on a hard-hit ball to left by Solis, after a Logan Kelly strikeout.
Chruchill had an almost identical hit as Solis to left field, allowing Ley to score and putting CAC runners on the corners.
Solis and Churchill advanced on a wild pitch by Lugo before Evelyn Roman flew out to Taylor Murphy at short, and CAC took a 2-1 lead.
“I told them the first game is done now and the nice thing about this sport is we get to play two,” Davis said. “You can wash that one away and we have to let that one go and work on whatever you need to work on in the 20 minutes between games. The biggest thing is we have to be able to rebound in doubleheaders, and this was the perfect example of you have to pick it up and get it going.”
Bella Garcia scored Churchill on a double and then she came around to score on a single by Rodriguez.
Cheyenne Hudson scored the only run for CAC in the second on solo home run, and Rodriguez had a three-run homer in the third as Roman and Garcia found their way on base with a single.
“I think the wind definitely helped a little bit today but this might be the most power one through nine offensively that we’ve ever had,” Davis said. “We just have girls in the whole lineup that can kind of hit it out of the park when the swing’s right. The wind was definitely a factor, but they still had to get the swing right.”
In the fourth inning, Solis and Churchill each drew a walk before Sabrina Garcia smacked a hard grounder to center, allowing Solis to score. Churchill and Sabrina Garcia both advanced on the throw home.
CAC scored three more runs before the Gila Monsters got the first out of the fourth inning. The Vaqueras led 11-2 with one out and two runners on base when Hudson loaded the bases after drawing a walk.
Ley grounded into a fielder’s choice, and pinch hitter Lainey Gonzales also grounded out to end the inning.