By ED PETRUSKA, Contributing Writer Pinal Central
SIGNAL PEAK — Sweeping Saturday's softball doubleheader mainly was a matter phenomenal pitching for Central Arizona College.
Trinity Valentine kept South Mountain at bay in Game 1, which the Vaqueras won 2-1. Sarah Norton struck out 15 of the 19 batters she faced while limiting the Cougars to one hit as Central prevailed 8-0 in Game 2.
The Vaqueras (8-5, 4-0 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) have won seven of eight following a 1-4 start.
South Mountain (2-2, 2-2 ACCAC) had runners at second and third with nobody out in the top of the sixth of the opener. Valentine preserved a 1-1 tie by striking two before getting an inning-ending groundout.
After Central took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth on Nicol Ley's RBI single, the Cougars once again put runners at second and third – this time with one out in the seventh. Valentine, a sophomore right-hander, then notched her 11th strikeout before the game ended on a groundout to short.
"I told Trinity that she wouldn't have won that game last year," CAC coach Shelby Davis said. "She has really grown as a pitcher. It's huge for her to show the team she can win those type of games. There are some games where we're not going to be able to put a lot of runs on the board. That's when she has to stay calm, be confident and make pitches."
The score was 0-0 going into the bottom of the fourth before the Vaqueras collected their first hit off South Mountain pitcher Vanessa Gutierrez. Leadoff batter Michaela Kittredge got aboard on an error and took second on a sacrifice by Danielle Farinas. Alyssa
Madrid followed with a single and former Casa Grande Union High School standout Amaya Dasti reached on a fielder's choice to load the bases.
No. 9 batter Isabel Gallo made it 1-0 with her bloop single to left.
The first hit off Valentine was Destiny Apodaca's leadoff single in the fifth. She wound up scoring on an error after advancing on a walk and a wild pitch.
Ley's sixth-inning single drove in Gallo, who singled with two outs and went to second when Serrina Cabral walked.
Valentine allowed five hits and walked four. Gutierrez gave up three hits and walked six.
"Their pitcher did a good job of jamming us up," Davis said.
Norton struck out the side in the first, second and fifth innings and recorded two strikeouts in the third, fourth and sixth.
The freshman right-hander "told me she had a sore arm and maybe could go two innings," Davis said. "But she's a competitive kid. The adrenaline kind of overruled the pain."
The lone hit off Norton was a two-out infield single by Adrianaly Morales-Correa in the third. South Mountain's only other baserunner was Ali Ashner, who walked with one out in the first. The Cougars put just two other balls in play besides the single – Ashner flied out to left in the fourth, and Morales-Correa flied out to center in the sixth.
The Vaqueras took a 7-0 lead in Game 2 with a six-run third. Five of their seven hits in the inning were doubles.
The onslaught began with back-to-back doubles by Ley and Sonia Solis. Madrid's double drove in two runs, and Kittredge and Gallo delivered RBI doubles before Cabral capped the rally with an RBI single.
Kittredge had an RBI double in the second. Ley, who went 4 for 4, ended the game under the mercy rule with a run-scoring single in the sixth after leadoff batter Cabral reached second on an error and took third on a wild pitch.
CAC finished with 11 hits.
"We made progress (with the bats) as the day went on," Davis said.