By ED PETRUSKA Contributing Writer - Pinal Central Casa Grande Dispatch
SIGNAL PEAK – Two outs away from what would have been an uplifting doubleheader sweep, the Central Arizona College softball team could not close the deal on Tuesday.
The Vaqueras rallied from 2-0 and 4-2 deficits in Game 2 to take a 5-4 lead on Ashleigh Withers sixth-inning two-run homer, only to fall 6-5 when Arizona Western's Jessica Alvarez answered with a two-run homer in the top of the seventh.
Central rolled to a 9-1 victory in the five-inning opener. The split left the Vaqueras with a 10-7 overall record and a 4-4 mark in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference.
CAC has won Game 1 by the run rule, then lost the second game in each of its first two home outings.
"It's really frustrating," CAC coach Shelby Davis said. "We're not keeping the momentum up, kind of allowing ourselves to die. Obviously we still have our work cut out for us."
Central seemingly had the Matadors (10-9, 4-4 ACCAC) down for the count after scoring three runs in the sixth inning of Game 2. Trailing 4-2, the rally began with a leadoff walk to Madison Besaw. Zoe Collins followed with an RBI triple to right before AWC pitcher Makenna Stram retired the next two batters.
Up stepped Withers, who drilled an 0-1 offering over the center-field fence to give CAC a short-lived lead.
Central relief pitcher Taya Smith, who took over for Collins with two outs in the fifth, issued a leadoff walk to Aylin Campa to start the AWC seventh. Smith caught the next batter looking at strike three, but could not get a 1-0 pitch past Alvarez, who went 4 for 4 with three RBIs.
The Matadors went up 2-0 on RBI singles by Isabel Sanchez in the second and Alvarez in the third.
Western took a 4-2 lead with a two-run fifth. Sam Jara Villegas had a one-out RBI single, and the second run scored on a CAC error.
Withers went 3 for 4 and Thomas had two of Central's eight hits off Stram, who struck out two, walked two and hit two. The Matadors finished with 10 hits, including two by Stram.
"We gave ourselves a chance, but we weren't stringing together good at-bats throughout the game," Davis said. "We have to have better at-bats."
The Vaqueras played "their cleanest game so far this year" in the opener, she said. They had 11 hits and scored multiple runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings. Kyrstan Garcia pitched a six-hitter, striking out six and walking none.
"We did things right," Davis said. "We didn't have any errors, we moved runners and we had generally good at-bats."
After Western took a 1-0 lead in the second on Yassiel Lazo's sacrifice fly, the Vaqueras tied it in the bottom of the inning before putting up three runs in the third, three in the fourth and two in the fifth.
Jessenia Miranda had a two-out RBI single in the second off Western starter Koryne Coddlington.
CAC's third-inning runs also scored with two outs. Besaw knocked in two with a single and Collins followed with an RBI triple.
The fourth-inning runs off reliever Nadia Hernandez scored with one out. Thomas drove in two with a single and Garcia followed with an RBI double.
The game ended in somewhat bizarre fashion when Thomas drove in two runs with a fielder's choice grounder. The bases were loaded with one out when Thomas hit a grounder to the second baseman, who made a diving tag on the bag for the force at second. Rangel scored from third on the play. Withers, who was at second, continued home without hesitation and narrowly beat the throw to plate.
Collins, Miranda and Rangel each had two hits for the Vaqueras. Stram had two for Western.