The Yavapai College baseball team opened its final week of regular-season play with a home sweep of the Eastern Arizona College Gila Monsters (11-4 and 10-6) en route to clinching a spot in the NJCAA Division I Region I Tournament.
“I was glad to see us take care of business,” Head Coach Ryan Cougill said. “Our guys stayed focused on their jobs most of the day and when we faltered, we had someone there to pick them up. Playoff baseball in this region is a special experience and I am excited they get rewarded with that competition.”
The pair of victories moves the Roughriders to 36-15-1 overall and 24-12 within the conference.
Sophomore righty Nate Ward earned the game-one start and pitched six innings, gave up four earned runs and struck out six Gila Monsters. Redshirt-freshman righty Ryan Scott pitched a scoreless seventh to finish the ballgame.
Eastern Arizona scored a pair of runs in the top of the first, however, YC responded with a sacrifice fly from redshirt-sophomore outfielder Sean Rimmer and two-run homer from freshman utility man Ben Zeigler in the bottom of the first for a 3-2 lead.
In the bottom of the second, Rimmer drove in two more with a single in addition to another Roughrider run crossing the plate on an error to push the lead to 6-2.
The Roughriders put the game away in the bottom of the third with a four-spot as freshman infielder Alex Ulloa tripled to lead things off and came around to score on an RBI single from sophomore infielder Kade York.
York then scored on an RBI single from sophomore catcher Alton Gyselman and two more runs came across the plate later in the inning on a single from Zeigler.
Leading 10-2, YC saw Eastern Arizona push two runs across in the top of the fourth, before York tallied a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth to bring the game to its eventual final score of 11-4.
At the plate, Zeigler led the way with three hits and four RBIs. Sophomore utility man JT Taylor and freshman infielder Rocco Gump both finished with two hits while sophomore infielder Travis Warinner, Rimmer, sophomore utility man Jo Stevens, Ulloa, York and Gyselman all had one.
Freshman lefty Nick Woodcock started on the bump in game two and pitched five innings while allowing just one earned run and striking out four.
Sophomore rightys Tyler Davis and Ben Staiger and freshman righty Cayden Collins all logged scoreless relief efforts out of the bullpen in game two.
Down 1-0, the Roughriders put up another three-spot in the bottom of the first in game two on an RBI double from Zeigler and two-RBI double from Gump.
The Gila Monsters responded with single runs in the top of the third and top of the fifth innings to even the score at 3-3.
In the bottom of the fifth, Warinner doubled and was followed by a two-run homer to left-center off the bat of Taylor to give YC a 5-3 lead. Later in the frame, Stevens drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to make it 6-3 YC.
In the top of the seventh, the Gila Monsters stormed all the way back to tie the game at 6-6 with a three-run double that put the go-ahead run on second base with one out.
The Roughriders were able to get out of the jam and pushed a run across in the seventh and three runs in the eighth to take a 10-6 lead that also proved to be the final score.
The run support came via an RBI single from Ulloa in the seventh, RBI single from Warinner in the eighth and two-run homer from Taylor (his second of game two) in the eighth.
Overall, at the plate, Rimmer collected four hits while Warinner and Taylor each had three. Zeigler had two hits in game two while Gump, Ulloa and Gyselman all had one.
The Roughriders are back in action on Saturday, April 30, at home where they will face the No. 10-ranked Central Arizona College Vaqueros in their regular-season finale. First pitch of the doubleheader is set for noon.
– D.J. Irwin