By ED PETRUSKA Contributing Writer
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — Falling behind 2-0 in the first inning of Monday's NJCAA World Series game against Chattahoochee Valley (Alabama) was a mere annoyance for the Central Arizona College baseball team.
The Vaqueros shook off the early deficit with yet another lights-out performance, winning 10-2 at Sam Suplizio Field to improve to 2-0 in the tournament. The game ended after seven innings under the mercy rule.
"Other than the first inning, the guys played pretty well," CAC coach Anthony Gilich said. "We have a lot of confidence right now. Being down 2-0 didn't rattle us."
Not one bit.
Hunter Jump went 4 for 4 with four RBIs, Brennan Reback went 3 for 4 with three RBIs, and starting pitcher Jonathan Stroman kept the Pirates hitless for the final five innings of his six-inning outing. Jump's second hit was a bases-loaded double down the left-field line that drove in all three runners. It came on a 3-2 pitch and put Central ahead to stay at 5-2 in the third inning.
The Vaqueros (47-19) next face Iowa Western (49-9) at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday. The Reivers had 21 hits in Sunday's 18-10 win over Connors State (Oklahoma). Central is 9-1 in postseason play and has won 16 of 17 overall.
"We'll have our work cut out for us, but we'll be ready," Gilich said.
CAC's final nine runs against Chattahoochee Valley – four in the third inning, one in the fifth and four in the sixth – came with two outs. That type of clutch hitting, Gilich said, can largely be attributed to the lineup's two-strike approach.
"For a good part of the year, we were striking out way too much," he said. "Lately we've been more committed to putting balls in play. We're moving guys around and scoring runs."
And they're coming in bunches. Central has scored 10 or more in all five postseason games since the switch to metal bats.
Both runs off Stroman in the first were unearned. The first scored on a one-out error. The second hit of the inning for Chattahoochee Valley (36-19) was a two-out RBI single by Austin Zeiter.
Stroman issued three of his four walks in the third but came away unscathed when catcher Jake Meyer picked off a runner at first base for the second out. The right-hander finished with 10 strikeouts, striking out the side in the second and the fourth. He retired the Pirates in order twice, no easy feat against a team that had 18 hits in Saturday's 20-12 win over New Mexico JC.
"Stroman was outstanding," Gilich said. "He was attacking the zone and throwing strikes for the most part."
Tyler Woessner came on in the seventh to finish off Chattahoochee Valley, allowing a two-out triple to Andrew Greckel.
All four runs off Chattahoochee Valley starter Jordan Armstrong in the third were unearned due to a one-out error. An RBI single by Ernny Oronez made it 2-2 before Jump delivered his biggest hit of the day. Jump also had an RBI single in the sixth.
Reback doubled in fourth, tripled in the fifth to drive in a run and capped the scoring with a two-run single in the sixth. The Vaqueros collected seven of their nine hits off Armstrong, who was lifted with two outs in the fifth.
Central is making its sixth appearance in the World Series and going for a third national championship. The previous titles came in 2002 and 1976.