Vaqueros a win away from NJCAA World Series
YUMA — With a win Saturday, the Central Arizona College Vaqueros will return to the NJCAA Division I World Series for the first time since 2011.
CAC (42-21) defeated the College of Southern Nevada (43-16) 15-5 on Thursday and then held off host Arizona Western College (43-21) with a 4-1 win Friday to advance to the finals of the Western District Championship against Southern Nevada.
Friday's game was the eighth meeting of the year between the Vaqueros and the Matadors. Central had a 1-0 lead in the top of the eighth inning when Isaiah Garcia hit a solo home run to put the Vaqueros up 2-0.
In the ninth, Garcia delivered with a two-run single to extend the lead to 4-0. Western put up a fight in the bottom of the frame, scoring a run and bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of Daniel Lafarga, third in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference with 10 home runs.
Reliever Nick Trogerlic-Iverson got Lafarga to ground out to third to end the game.
"Roger Varela made an excellent play at third on a short hop," CAC coach Anthony Gilich said.
The Vaqueros would not be in position to play for a berth in the NJCAA World Series without a terrific outing from starting pitcher Ryley Widell, who shut out the Matadors over 7 2/3 innings. He allowed five hits and three walks while striking out eight.
"I can't say enough about Ryley Widell," Gilich said. "He's in really good shape; he takes care of his body, which allows him to go deep in games."
Widell (8-2, 1.98 ERA) is on a scoreless streak of 25 2/3 innings. The 6-foot-4 lefty has a fastball that reaches 92, but what makes him especially tough is a devastating changeup that produces a lot of swings and misses.
Gilich said Widell is getting a lot of attention from major league scouts.
The Vaqueros didn't sweat as much in their Thursday victory over Southern Nevada, as the offense exploded for 15 runs on 17 hits.
Grant Townsend (11-2, 1.79) went seven innings and allowed five earned runs on seven hits. He struck out seven and walked two, while Trogerlic-Iverson and Sati Santa Cruz combined for two scoreless innings out of the bullpen.
One reason CAC performed so well in those two games is the team is playing with a lot of confidence, Gilich said. There's also a little added motivation due to the fact the Vaqueros lost out to the Matadors for the Region 1 championship.
But all that will be forgotten if Central grabs a win Saturday and heads back to the NJCAA World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Southern Nevada reached the championship game by defeating Western 6-4 on Friday, which ended the Matadors' season. The Vaqueros are in a good spot because Southern Nevada would have to beat them twice to advance, while CAC just needs one victory.
But Gilich cautioned that his team can't celebrate because they haven't won anything yet. He expects the Coyotes to put up a battle.
"They'll be fighting for their lives, just like we are," he said.
CAC will send Peyton Remy (4-5, 2.84) to the mound for Saturday's game, which starts at noon.