SIGNAL PEAK — Except for a first-inning hiccup, Jason Nelson was once again a dominating mound presence for the Central Arizona College baseball team.
Coming off a March 15 no-hitter in which Nelson struck out 17 in a 6-0 win over Dawson, Montana, the right-hander retired 19 of the last 20 batters he faced in Friday's 9-2 home victory over Chandler-Gilbert. The no-hitter came after Nelson gave up just one hit while striking out 10 in eight shutout innings on March 9 in CAC's 4-0 win over Eastern Arizona.
Nelson's latest outing did not have a great beginning. Four of the first five Chandler-Gilbert batters reached base, and the Vaqueros found themselves in a 2-0 hole.
Nelson limited the damage by retiring the final two batters in the first to leave runners at first and second. Then he faced the minimum over the next six innings. The lone baserunner for the Coyotes during that stretch reached on a single, but was caught stealing for the final out of the third.
Once Nelson found his groove, the Vaqueros (25-9, 12-5 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) went about the process of notching their ninth consecutive victory. They tied it with two runs in the third, went up 4-2 with a two-run fifth and sent 10 batters to the plate in a five-run seventh.
"We got off to a little bit of a rough start, then (Nelson) settled in really well," CAC coach Anthony Gilich said. "We've relied on our pitching all year and those guys again did a heck of a job. And now the offense is starting to come around. We've been able to put up some crooked numbers instead of just settling for one run all the time."
Brennan Reback went 2 for 4 with a double, a triple and two RBIs. Ernny Ordonez and Ian Raidy both contributed two hits and one RBI for the Vaqueros, who finished with 10 hits. Clayton Keyes went 2 for 2 after entering the game as a pinch hitter in the seventh.
Nelson gave up four hits, struck out seven and did not issue a walk in his seven-inning stint. Tyler Woessner kept Chandler-Gilbert (16-15, 6-11 ACCAC) off the board in the eighth and Mitchell DeCovich did likewise in the ninth.
"We've been playing so many close games that it's been tough to get all our arms in there who need to pitch," Gilich said. "I tried to make sure they each got an inning."
The Coyotes struck with stunning quickness in the top of the first on a one-out double by Tristan Peters, Garret Thornton's RBI single and a run-scoring double by Ryan McLennan after Thornton continued to third on a two-base error.
Chandler-Gilbert starter Chase Webster retired CAC in order in the first and second, then gave up two hits — one of which was an RBI single by Matt Aribal — along with two walks and a run-scoring wild pitch in the third.
The Vaqueros went ahead to stay when Raidy came home on an error in the fifth after being hit by a pitch and stealing both second and third. Raidy's steal of third in the seventh inning was CAC's eighth and final stolen base of the game.
Ordonez made it 4-2 with a two-out RBI single in the fifth.
Central's seventh-inning runs came off two Chandler-Gilbert relievers. The Vaqueros had four hits in the seventh, including Reback's two-run double and an RBI double by Raidy. The other runs scored on Jake Meyer's squeeze bunt and a balk.
Chandler-Gilbert's pitchers walked eight and hit two.