Ed Petruska-Contributing Writer Pinal Central
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — There is still plenty of fight remaining in the Central Arizona College baseball team.
The Vaqueros stayed alive in the NJCAA World Series with Wednesday's 14-5 drubbing of Chattahoochee Valley, Alabama, at Sam Suplizio Field and will face Walters State, Tennessee, in another elimination game at 2 p.m. Arizona time on Thursday.
Central (48-20) was in bash mode against Chattahoochee Valley, slamming 10 extra-base hits. Three of those were home runs, including back-to-back solo shots by Zach Hogueisson and Hunter Jump in the top of the fifth inning. Clayton Keyes provided another solo homer in CAC's six-run eighth.
The game ended after eight innings under the mercy rule.
Brennan Reback went 3 for 5 with three RBIs as the Vaqueros run-ruled the Pirates for the second time in the tournament (Central prevailed 10-2 in seven innings on Monday). Seven other players had one RBI.
"When your lineup produces like that, you're going to win most of the time," CAC coach Anthony Gilich said.
The Vaqueros led 6-0 before Chattahoochee Valley (37-20) cut the margin to 6-4 with two runs in the fifth and two in the sixth. But they battered three relievers for eight runs in their final two at-bats. The Pirates committed three of their five errors during that stretch, leading to four unearned runs for Central.
CAC is now 10-2 in postseason play and has won 17 of 19 overall. The Vaqueros had to win their final seven games just to qualify for the postseason as the fourth and final seed in the Region 1 tournament.
"We've had our backs against the wall for a long time," Gilich said. Facing elimination "didn't seem like a huge deal. We were pretty confident. The guys were more excited than they were nervous."
Shaking off Tuesday night's 14-4 run-rule loss to Iowa Western, the Vaqueros seized the momentum with three runs in the second inning, one in the fourth and two in the fifth.
Zane Strand made his first start of the season for Central and went five-plus innings. He allowed four runs and seven hits while striking out five and walking three to improve to 4-0 in the postseason.
"Zane was our best available pitcher," Gilich said. "I learned a lesson in 2017 when we were in a similar situation (and lost in the Western District title game). I wasn't going to make that mistake again."
Strand had three of CAC's four wins in the Region 1 tournament, giving up just one run (it was unearned) in 13 1/3 innings. He held Chattahoochee Valley scoreless for four innings — escaping a bases-loaded jam in the second — before Jason Rooks and Tyler Daughtry connected for back-to-back RBI doubles with two outs in the fifth.
Following JoJo Odachowski's two-run homer and a walk to Carson Allison in the sixth, Lucas Knowles replaced Strand. Knowles gave up an unearned run in his two-inning stint, and Mitchell DeCovich got the final three outs.
The game ended on a 6-4-3 double play.
Reback put the Vaqueros ahead to stay with a two-run triple in the second. He doubled in the fifth and had an RBI single in the seventh.
Among the Vaqueros' 17 hits were RBI doubles by Jake Meyer in the second, Liam Spence in the fourth and Dudden in the eighth and Ian Raidy's run-scoring single in the eighth.
Chattahoochee Valley brought in seven relief pitchers after starter Chase Patrick departed with two outs in the third.