Ed Petruska-Pinal Central
SIGNAL PEAK — When it comes to thrilling conclusions in a sports event, a walk-off home run is at or near the top of the list.
The Central Arizona College softball team had the good fortune to enjoy the elation of that magic moment in the opener of Saturday's doubleheader against Arizona Western, only to see the mojo disappear in Game 2.
Evelyn Roman provided the dramatics in Game 1. Her three-run homer with one out in the bottom of the seventh lifted the Vaqueros to a 5-4 victory. The Matadors responded with an 11-3 win in the second game, outhitting Central 18-5.
"It definitely was bittersweet," CAC coach Shelby Davis said. "You have to be able to win the big games, win the close ones, because those are confidence-builders and character-builders. In the second game, we kind of lost our momentum. You want to come out with more energy. Even if you lose, you want better quality than what we had."
Defeating Western was significant. The Matadors likely will host the four-team Division I Region 1 tournament next month, and the Vaqueras needed to show they can compete with a team that swept a doubleheader from them on Feb. 26 in Yuma, prevailing 5-0 and 4-3.
"That was one of the biggest things, to show we can beat them," Davis said.
Central (33-14, 26-12 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) is on track to be the No. 3 seed in the region tourney. Western (42-6, 33-5) held a four-game lead over Yavapai going into Saturday's games.
The Vaqueras have 10 games left in the regular season, and "what we're looking for is mental consistency" down the stretch, Davis said.
Western, which is ranked No. 7 in the NJCAA poll, appeared to have Game 1 in hand after Cassandra Valle's two-run homer in the sixth inning put Central in a 4-1 hole.
The Vaqueras had runners thrown out at third and home in the bottom of the sixth, but managed to get one run across on an RBI single by Ariday Lopez. Facing AWC ace Koryne Coddington, Justeen Vasquez beat out an infield single and Aliya Ewell singled to set the stage for Roman's game-winning blast over the left-field fence. Coddington came in with a 27-3 record and a 1.81 ERA.
Both teams scored one in the first, with Western getting an RBI double from Danielle Burgos and Central answering with Ewell's RBI single.
The Matadors went up 2-1 with an unearned run in the fourth.
CAC pitcher Baylee Eaton (18-6) allowed six hits (three by Burgos), struck out five and walked two.
Makiya Thomas, Ewell and Lopez each had two of the nine hits off Coddington, who struck out four and walked none.
The Matadors took a 2-0 lead in the first inning of Game 2, went up 3-1 in the second and padded their lead with three runs in the fourth, two in the sixth and three in the seventh. Six AWC players had at least two hits off CAC starter Trinity Valentine and relievers Eaton and Danielle Farinas. Valle went 4 for 5 with a two-run double in the first and an RBI double in the seventh. Burgos had a two-run single in the fourth and an RBI single in the sixth.
Western pitcher Sarah Velasquez gave up just three hits after the first inning. She struck out two and walked three.
Thomas, who went 2 for 4, scored on a wild pitch in the first and Ewell's squeeze bunt in the fifth. Nicol Ley had a sacrifice fly in the fourth