SIGNAL PEAK — Propelled by a late-season push, the Central Arizona College softball team is on the brink of clinching the fourth and final spot in the Division I Region 1 tournament.
The Vaqueras need only to split Saturday's doubleheader at Division II Mesa to qualify after rolling to 11-0 and 10-2 wins over South Mountain on Tuesday in their home finale. Both games ended in the fifth inning under the eight-run rule.
Pima fell one game behind CAC after losing twice to Paradise Valley on Tuesday. Central owns the tiebreaker against the Aztecs after going 3-1 against them in Arizona Community College Athletic Conference play.
The Vaqueras (35-22, 27-19 ACCAC) have notched six consecutive victories. Four have come at home, where they finished with a 15-11 record.
"We've really been working on taking care of business," CAC coach Shelby Davis said.
Kyrstan Garcia pitched a two-hitter in the opener and allowed four hits in Game 2. It was the third straight time the sophomore right-hander has been called upon to pitch both ends of doubleheaders.
"She's been our best for two years and she's stepping up really big for us," Davis said. "That's what we need from her right now. Having her in (the circle) for both games sets a tone for us."
Garcia was not bashful about helping her own cause. The ACCAC D-I pitcher of the week for April 16-21 went 3 for 3 with three RBI doubles in Game 2 after going 2 for 3 with two RBIs in the opener.
Only three batters reached base against Garcia in Game 1, and none advanced past first. She gave up two-out singles in the first and third and hit a batter with two outs in the fourth.
Central batted around three times in the doubleheader, sending nine to the plate in the first inning of each game. The Vaqueras scored at least one run in all but one of their eight at-bats against South Mountain (11-44, 8-38 ACCAC).
"We're finally starting to be more patient at the plate and not being too anxious," Davis said. "That allows us to have consistent at-bats."
Central put up five runs in the first inning and five in the second off SMCC starter Megan Jesionowski to take command in the opener.
They batted around once again in the second, with the big hits being a run-scoring double by Makiya Thomas and Madison Besaw's RBI single. Garcia and Rangel had run-scoring grounders and another run came home on an error.
Savannah Willis delivered a fourth-inning pinch single to drive in CAC's final run.
Thomas, the ACCAC D-I player of the week for April 16-21, went 2 for 3.
The Vaqueras began Game 2 with four runs in the first, then produced one in the second, three in the third and two in the fourth.
Two of the scores came on delayed double steals of home — by Katelyn Duilio in the first and Rangel in the third. Garcia had RBI doubles in the first, second and fourth. Rangel drove in two runs with a two-out single in the first off South Mountain starter Nephtali Ruiz.
The Cougars collected two of their four hits in the second. Marisa Garcia doubled with one out and Briana Rodriguez-Soltero was hit by a pitch with two gone before Morgan Mabery plated both baserunners with a double.
Garcia had five strikeouts in Game 1.