- By ED PETRUSKA Contributing Writer Pinal Central
SIGNAL PEAK — Central Arizona College waited until the eighth inning of Game 2 to score its first and only earned run of Saturday's baseball doubleheader against Eastern Arizona.
The Vaqueros still managed to gain a split against the cellar-dweller in the 14-team Arizona Community College Athletic Conference, posting a 4-0 victory over the Gila Monsters after falling 2-0 in the seven-inning opener.
"We're not playing our best at the moment, but we bounced back," CAC coach Anthony Gilich said. "We've got to get it going. We're a little inconsistent for my taste; we play a good game, then we play a bad game. We're having trouble getting a head of steam going. We just have to keep working to get better."
Coming off Tuesday's 8-0 and 14-2 wins at Pima, the Vaqueros (16-9, 7-5 ACCAC) were limited to five hits in Saturday's opener and six in Game 2.
"We really didn't hit in either game," Gilich said.
Fortunately, Central had Jason Nelson on the mound in Game 2. The right-hander was dazzling, limiting the Gila Monsters (8-15, 2-10 ACCAC) to one hit over eight innings while striking out 10 and walking one.
"We needed that outing," Gilich said. "He's always had that capability," and following an early-season injury, Nelson seems to be "getting his legs under him, so to speak."
Nelson struck out the side in order in both the first and fifth innings and also registered 1-2-3 innings in the third, fourth and sixth.
Eastern's lone hit of Game 2 was Brendan Paul's two-out single in the second. The Gila Monsters stranded six baserunners, five in scoring position.
The Vaqueros scored three unearned runs off EAC starter Zaylan Aleman in the first. Back-to-back errors allowed the first two batters to get aboard, and a single by Ernny Ordonez loaded the bases. Zach Hogueisson's RBI fielder's choice made it 1-0 and following a walk to Josh Dudden that reloaded the bases, Hunter Jump delivered a two-run single.
Aleman gave up just two more hits before departing after seven innings. The right-hander struck out four and walked one.
Central tacked on an insurance run in the eighth off Casey Anderson. Ordonez, who went 3 for 4, singled with two outs. He continued to second on an error and took third on a wild pitch before coming home on a double by pinch hitter Daniel Cervantes.
Dakota Donovan pitched the ninth for CAC, retiring three in a row after issuing a leadoff walk and hitting the next batter.
Eastern pitchers Seth Chavez (five innings) and Trace Hardin combined for the Game 1 shutout. Dudden had two hits for the Vaqueros, who left three runners in scoring position.
The Gila Monsters scored on an error in the fourth inning. They posted their lone earned run of the doubleheader in the fifth when nobody covered home on a pop foul sacrifice fly that was caught near the EAC dugout.
Eastern came in with an 0-6 road record.
Central starter Jonathan Stroman went 4 2/3 innings, giving up seven hits while striking out eight and walking three. Reliever Zane Strand kept the Gila Monsters scoreless for the final 2 1/3 innings.
SCHEDULING NOTES: Central travels to Scottsdale on Monday (rescheduled from Tuesday) to complete a Feb. 28 game against the Artichokes that was suspended by darkness with the score tied 11-11 after 10 innings. A nine-inning game, which is a makeup from Feb. 23, will follow. … The Vaqueros play a nonconference home doubleheader against Northeastern on Thursday (rescheduled from Wednesday). A nonconference game at Phoenix that was scheduled for Thursday will be played at a later date. … CAC has nonconference home games against Dawson and Bismarck State on Friday, as scheduled.