Vaqueros moving on with 16-7 win over College of Southern Nevada
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Ed Petruska-Contributing Writer Pinal Central
LAMAR, Colo. — The way Central Arizona College took care of business in Saturday's Western District baseball championship game was absolutely astounding.
The Vaqueros scored seven runs in the bottom of the first inning and owned a 15-1 lead after three before finishing off a 16-7 drubbing of Southern Nevada to advance to the NJCAA World Series for the sixth time in program history.
"It's hard to get there, but this program and this school deserves it," CAC coach Anthony Gilich said. "I'm glad we could get it done. I couldn't be happier for the guys. It will be an experience they'll never forget."
Central (45-19) clouted five home runs in the title game, giving the Vaqueros 12 round-trippers in their 3-0 run through the tournament. They outscored their opponents 49-17. And they pounded out 17 hits after collecting a season-high 19 in Thursday's 20-5 win over Lamar, Colorado, and 10 in Friday's 13-5 victory over Region 18 champ Southern Nevada (46-12).
"The guys are really confident right now, as they should be," Gilich said. "It's fun watching them perform. We (the coaching staff) just need to stay out of their way."
CAC's first two games ended after seven innings under the eight-run mercy rule. There is no mercy rule in the championship round, which was the only reason Saturday's game went the full nine.
"We've had some highs and lows this year," Gilich said. "I'm glad we're trending the right way. We've had a lot of guys step up when they were presented with an opportunity."
Jake Meyer led the offensive onslaught with homers in his first two at-bats, delivering a three-run blast in the first and a two-run shot in the second. Josh Dudden also had a two-run homer in the second, and Brennan Reback smacked a two-run dinger in the third. Central's final home run was a solo shot by Liam Spence in the fourth.
Spence began the first inning with a double, and Central's next five batters also reached as CSN starter Johnny Cuevas surrendered four singles and a walk. RBI singles by Ernny Ordonez, Zach Hogueisson and Dudden made it 3-0 and chased Cuevas.
The Vaqueros' first out was a run-scoring grounder by Reback. Then No. 8 batter Meyer provided the stunning capper with a drive over the right-field fence.
"I had a feeling we were going to hit, but you really can't expect to score seven runs in the first inning," Gilich said.
Central sent 12 batters to the plate in the first. And the runs kept on coming as the Vaqueros tacked on four in the second and four in the third off two relievers.
Hunter Jump's RBI single and Dudden's sacrifice fly in the third preceded Reback's homer.
Josh Brown came on for the Coyotes in the fourth and held the Vaqueros to one run over their final five at-bats, keeping them off the board in innings five through eight.
Southern Nevada scored three in the sixth and two in the seventh after putting up single runs in the second and fourth, but the early damage inflicted by CAC was way too much to overcome.
Central starter Avery Jones went six innings, allowing five runs and five hits. He struck out five, walked three and hit two. The only two hits off the right-hander through five innings were AJ Amelburu's solo homer in the second and an RBI double by Amelburu in the fourth. Amelburu had another run-scoring double in the sixth.
"I felt like Jye deserved that moment," Gilich said of the sophomore left-hander, who has been with the program for three years. Deeble came back after missing the entire 2018 season with an injury.
Meyer went 3 for 4 with five RBIs. Dudden drove in four runs and Reback had three RBIs. Finishing with two hits apiece were Clayton Keyes, Dudden, Reback, Spence, Ordonez, Jump and Hogueisson.
Matt Wong and Nicholas Israel both had run-scoring singles for the Coyotes.
The Vaqueros last qualified for the NJCAA World Series in 2011. They will face Eastern District champion Monroe, New York, in the opening round. The 10-team, double-elimination tournament in Grand Junction, Colorado, begins on May 25.
Central won the national title in 2002 and 1976, finished second in 2011, third in 2008 and sixth in 1999.
The Vaqueros are 7-1 in postseason play after closing the regular season with seven consecutive wins to earn the fourth and final spot in the Region 1 tournament. They swept top-seeded Cochise in the best-of-three opening round, then won two straight over third-seeded Yavapai in the title series following a Game 1 loss.