DOUGLAS, Ariz. – The Arizona Western baseball team has lived on comebacks all season long. How fitting then that the team overcame a 2-1 deficit in the third game to win 8-2 and clinch a slot in the Region I Finals for the first time since 1996. Yodelvy Merendez ripped a three-run double down the line that helped break a tie game open in the eighth inning. The Mats (40-19) won the final two games of the best of three series at top-seeded and 16th ranked Cochise.
With the score tied at two headed into the eighth inning, Franky Chavez led off with a double down the left field line, and Landon Riker drew a walk. Snaider Torrealba dropped down a sacrifice bunt, but Cochise pitcher Jerry Ochoa threw it into right field, and Chavez scored to put the Mats up 3-2. With runners on second and third and no outs, Ochoa intentionally walked Daniel Lafarga. Alex Tovalin came on in relief of Ochoa, and Spencer Packard hit a deep sacrifice fly to center to make it 4-2 and advance runners to second and third. Tovalin intentionally walked Sean Roby to reload the bases with one out. Merendez cleared the bases with a line drive that stayed fair in left field to make it 7-2. After a wild pitch advanced Sebastian Perez to third (he came on as a courtesy runner for Merendez), Najee Gaskins beat out a bunt single down the first base line to push the lead to six.
Cochise (43-16) was only able to muster one baserunner in the final two innings.
Irving Martin (7-3) came through with a big start and seven strong innings on the mound for the Mats. He struck out six while walking one and allowing six hits. He allowed two runs when he made a mistake on a pitch that Jamori Blash blasted for a two-run home run to left field in the third inning that put the Mats down 2-1. Jayden Murray pitched the eighth and ninth and didn’t allow a hit while striking out three.
AWC took lead in the third inning off Ochoa. Riker knocked a double down the third base line, and he scored when Lafarga launched a double deep to left-center field.
Down 2-1 in the sixth, Lafarga again came through. This time the sophomore crushed a solo home run to left field to tie the game. It was his 10th homer this year, and he went 2-3 with two RBI and two runs scored while drawing a pair of walks (one intentional).
The win was AWC's 20th comeback win this season.
Now the Matadors will head to Central Arizona College next week for a best of three series for the Region I Championship. The first game is scheduled to start on Thursday at 2:00 pm. The winner of the series will host the District Finals the following week.
Arizona Western College is one of the top community colleges in Arizona. The college boasts partnerships with all three state universities that include face-to-face classes in Yuma. AWC leads the state in enrollment growth over the past 10 years and handed out more than 2,400 certificates and degrees in 2015-16.