Vaqueros beat Mesa for 13th straight win
By ED PETRUSKA Contributing Writer Pinal Central
SIGNAL PEAK — Extending an impressive winning streak required a variety of elements for the Central Arizona College baseball team.
In addition to compiling 19 hits in Saturday's 13-8 victory over Mesa, the Vaqueros got some quality relief pitching and a couple of stellar defensive plays in holding off the Thunderbirds at CAC Field.
Central, ranked No. 12 in the NJCAA Division I poll, has won eight consecutive Arizona Community College Athletic Conference games and 13 straight overall. The Vaqueros (30-5, 11-5 ACCAC) did a ton of damage early on, and they didn't crack after Mesa pulled within 9-6.
"We're not doing anything different than we've been doing all year," CAC coach Anthony Gilich said. "We have a pretty focused group."
The Vaqueros began the season with 14 consecutive wins, then lost five of their first eight conference games — four by one run and the other in extra innings.
Mesa (31-6, 16-6 ACCAC) is ranked No. 1 in the NJCAA Division II poll. The Thunderbirds fell short against Central for the second straight day despite collecting 15 hits off three CAC pitchers.
"You know it's going to be wild when the wind is howling out," Gilich said.
The Vaqueros scored nine runs (seven earned) off Mesa starter Joshua Brown, who entered with a 0.22 ERA. Brown lasted only 3 2/3 innings, giving up four runs in the first and five in the second.
"We put some really good swings on him," Gilich said.
Brett Harris hit a two-run homer off Mesa reliever Jake Denham to highlight a three-run seventh that extended Central's lead to 12-6. The blast, which cleared the fence just to the right of the 410-foot sign in center, was the last of six extra-base hits for the Vaqueros.
Alix Garcia went 3 for 5 with an RBI double in the first and a two-run triple in the second. Liam Spence also knocked in three runs with an RBI double in the first, an RBI single in the second and a sacrifice fly in the seventh.
"(Jones) was outstanding in giving us a chance to keep adding on," Gilich said.
Joe Standley came on with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth. With the tying run at the plate, he struck out Riley Peterson.
"Huge," Gilich said.
Nelson (five), Jones (five) and Standley (three) combined for 13 strikeouts, seven of which were called thirds.
Shortstop Spence had the defensive play of the game, throwing out Luke Patty at the plate on a fielder's choice for the second out of the ninth. Spence went deep in the hole to snag Bailey's grounder.
"He knew that was his only play, and (catcher Chris) Deihl made a great tag," Gilich said. "That's one of the better plays I've seen."
Second baseman Reagan Teegarden turned a double play by tagging the runner and throwing to first to end the Mesa sixth.
"That was a big moment just to get a zero on the board," Gilich said. "We could feel them coming."
It was the first scoreless inning for the Thunderbirds, who put up two in the second and single runs in the first, third, fourth and fifth.
Ordonez went 3 for 5. Brennan Reback and Diehl both finished with two hits.
CAC defeated the Thunderbirds 5-2 on Friday at MCC. Reback homered with two aboard in the top of the fifth and Garcia provided insurance with a two-run homer in the eighth. Central starter RJ Dabovich (6-1, 0.63 ERA) pitched seven shutout innings, allowing three hits and striking out nine.