Ed Petruska Contributing Writer Pinal Central
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — One of the most remarkable closing runs in Central Arizona College baseball history came to a sensational conclusion Saturday night at the NJCAA World Series.
The Vaqueros scored 12 unanswered runs after Iowa Western seized a 7-0 lead in the top of the first inning, and hung on for a 13-8 victory to secure the program's third national championship.
"To spot them seven runs in the first and come back, you've got to be mentally tough to do that," CAC coach Anthony Gilich told KTMM radio in a postgame interview. "This is a tough group."
Central won 19 of its last 21 games of the season, going 12-2 in the playoffs and 5-0 in elimination games.
Ernny Ordonez went 3 for 5 with a home run and three RBIs, Hunter Jump slugged a three-run homer and Ian Raidy contributed a key two-run single, but Central's brightest star was relief pitcher Mitchell DeCovich.
The freshman right-hander came on with two outs in the first and held the Reivers to one run (unearned) over six innings to earn the win.
The previous longest outing for DeCovich was five innings in a March 14 start against Northeastern, Colorado. He threw 105 pitches Saturday night against a team that scored a World Series-record 74 runs (12.3 average), allowing just two hits while striking out six and walking four.
"I told him to get us two zeroes to give us a chance to chip away at them," Gilich told KTMM. "He did a little better than that. He was unbelievable."
Lucas Knowles replaced DeCovich with two on and two outs in the seventh. He walked the first batter he faced to load the bases, then caught Cooper Bowman looking at strike three.
The Reivers left two aboard in the eighth, and Knowles also kept them off the board in the ninth. Iowa Western put the leadoff batter aboard in the ninth when Greg Bennett reached on a wild pitch after striking out. Ross Indlecoffer then hit into a force at second, and Central was awarded a double play due to runner interference by Bennett.
Knowles ended the game by striking out pinch hitter Mason Spears on three pitches.
Central (50-20) wasted no time clawing back into contention after the Reivers (52-11) sent 11 batters to the plate and collected six hits — including a three-run homer by Jason Rolffs — off Jonathan Stroman in the first.
Leadoff batter Liam Spence reached on an error and Ordonez drove him in with a one-out double. Iowa Western pitcher Jordan Bonk then walked Zach Hogueisson and Jump followed with a home run to right field on a 3-2 pitch to cut the deficit to 7-4. Ordonez singled off reliever Jared Simpson with one out in the second to score Jake Meyer, who led off with a double.
Raidy's two-run single off Jayden Kruse following walks to Jump and Josh Dudden and a single by Brennan Reback made it 7-7. Reback scored on a wild pitch, Raidy came home when the catcher had to throw to first to complete a strikeout and Spence scored on a balk to put CAC up 10-7.
Spence smacked a two-run homer with two outs in the fifth, and Odonez homered leading off the sixth for Central's final run.
Ronald Sweeny III had an RBI single in the first and a sacrifice fly in the sixth for Iowa Western. The other first-inning RBI hits for the Reivers were Colin Kasperbauer's double and Gibson Krzeminski's single.
Spence and Raidy both had two of Central's 10 hits. The Reivers finished with nine, getting three from Krzeminski and two from Sweeny.
CAC has now won the World Series in three of its six appearances. The Vaqueros took their first title in 1976 under Kenny Richardson and their second in 2002 under Clint Myers