Ed Petruska-Pinal Central
SIGNAL PEAK — No ground was lost, nor was any gained for the Central Arizona College softball team in its battle with Pima for the fourth and final berth in the Division I Region 1 tournament.
The Vaqueras split a home doubleheader with the Aztecs on Thursday, winning 4-1 in the opener and dropping an 11-2 decision in Game 2.
Although the regular season is far from over — Central has 22 games remaining — catching Pima is going to take some work. At 15-11 in Arizona Community College Athletic Conference play, the Vaqueras trail the Aztecs (18-10) by four games.
Central is 7-7 at home in ACCAC games. That includes five splits in which the Vaqueras have won the opener.
"We're in the tough part of our schedule right now," said CAC coach Shelby Davis, whose team hosts first-place and fifth-ranked Eastern Arizona on Saturday. "That's why we need to be consistent and perform every day. We're just going through the motions in the second game and that's catching up to us."
Right-hander Kyrstan Garcia was brilliant in Game 1, nearly blanking a Pima squad that was averaging 7.4 runs per game and batting a collective .378. Garcia allowed seven hits, struck out three, walked one and hit one.
She has been Central's ace despite an injured throwing hand. Garcia keeps asking for the ball in the second game, "but I have to think long term," Davis said.
Both pitchers were ineffective against Pima. The Aztecs scored four runs off Collins and seven off Shirley in the second game, which ended after five innings under the eight-run mercy rule.
"It was a rough day," Davis said. "If you beat somebody in Game 1, you've got to get it done in Game 2. We have to figure it out."
The Vaqueras (23-14 overall) scored three runs in the first inning and one in the fourth off Pima starter Paige Adair in the opener. Ashleigh Withers and former Casa Grande Union High School standout Hannah Norris both had two of CAC's nine hits.
Jessenia Miranda came through with a two-out, bases-loaded single to drive in the first two runs. An error by the center fielder allowed the third run to score.
Withers tripled with two outs in the fourth and came home on a single by Katelyn Duilio.
Garcia's bid for a shutout was derailed in the seventh inning when Alizea Durazo-Corday doubled with one out, took third on Chandler Arviso's single and scored on a sacrifice fly by Alese Casper.
Pima (27-11 overall) had 12 hits in Game 2. CAC's pitchers walked five and hit two. The Aztecs scored two runs in the first, one in the second, four in the third (one unearned) and three in the fifth.
The Vaqueras put up two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Duilio had an RBI triple following a leadoff walk to Withers, who scored on Garcia's groundout.
Pima took a 2-0 lead off Collins in the first on RBI singles by Megan Flores and Mya Cabral.
Duilio and Makiya Thomas singled with one out in the CAC first before the inning ended with Central coming up with zilch. Garcia's grounder to second was misplayed for an error, but Duilio was thrown out at the plate attempting to score. The sequence continued and the scoring threat was dashed with Thomas being tagged out at second following a prolonged rundown.
Thomas and Pima shortstop Edith Prieto both were ejected after exchanging words.
Pima pitcher Sierra Gentry allowed just five hits the rest of the way, including two by Alliah Rangel.
Gentry went seven innings in the doubleheader, holding the Vaqueras scoreless for the last two innings of the opener. CAC came in averaging 7.7 runs and had the second-best batting average in the ACCAC at .396.
Megan Flores drove in four runs for the Aztecs, going 2 for 3 with an RBI single in the first and a two-run single in the fifth. Durazo-Corday knocked in three, hitting a solo home run in the second and capping the fifth-inning rally with an RBI single