PHOENIX, Ariz. – Saturday afternoon, the Arizona Western College baseball team bounced back from a heartbreaking loss on Friday with a monster day at the plate. AWC (47-14) racked up a season high 22 hits and season high five homers to blast past South Mountain Community College (46-15) 16-5 and win the Region I title for a second straight year. The 47 wins are a team record, and the Mats haven’t won back-to-back Region titles since 1995-96.
The game was close early before the Matador offense broke it open late. AWC jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Sean Roby, the Region I MVP, pounded a double off the left field ball with one out. Spencer Packard singled up the middle to send Roby home. Roby had three RBI on the day and 10 in the three-game series. Packard had four RBI in the game and nine total in the series.
South tied the game on Connor Kimple’s RBI double in the bottom of the first, and the Cougars took the lead in the second. Kole Kaler singled up the middle with two outs and a runner on third to make it 2-1.
Roby and Packard responded right away in the third. Roby smashed a homer to centerfield for his 20th homer of the season. Packard followed him with a solo home run to left field to put the Mats back up, 3-2. It was his eighth homer of the year.
The bottom of the order led the way in the fourth to help extend the lead. Carlos Arellano doubled off the wall in left field, and Snaider Torrealba singled him to third. Zach Huffins grounded out to second on a high chopper, but the run scored for a 4-2 lead. Roby was walked intentionally before South Mountain changed pitchers. Packard was hit to load the bases, and Justin Greene drew a walk two batters later to send Torrealba in for a 5-2 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, South Mountain cut it to 5-4. After Jordan Rathbone doubled, Ryan McHale hit a high fly ball to left-center. Packard and Huffins lost it in the sun, and the ball rolled to the fence. McHale raced home for a two-run, inside the park homer. It was his second home run of the series.
Greene put the Mats up by two in the sixth thanks to an opposite field solo bomb.
AWC added five in the seventh to crack the game wide open. This time, the team loaded the bases with two singles and a walk with no outs, and Zach Huffins ripped a grounder up the middle to knock in two. When he rounded first, he slipped, and South had him caught in a rundown. The throw to first bounced into foul territory, and a third run scored while Huffins took second. Roby was walked intentionally again, and Packard lined an RBI single off the wall in right field to score Huffins and send Roby to third. Roby scored when Manny Perez grounded into a double play to make it 11-4.
Yodelvy Merendez led off the eighth inning with a solo homer on a hanging breaking ball. His sixth homer of the year made it 12-4. After two outs, the Mats rallied when Torrealba and Huffins singled. Roby dropped a two-run double on the right field line, and he scored when Packard singled to left field for a 15-4 lead.
Greene capped the scoring with his second homer of the game to start the ninth. He golfed a moonshot over the right field fence for his 10th homer this year, and it was the second time this year he has hit two homers in a game.
South scored one on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth for the final tally.
Zach Hansen (5-1) earned the win for the Mats after coming on in relief to start the fifth inning. The freshman was dominant and retired 10 straight before allowing a baserunner, and he only allowed one run on two hits in five innings with no walks and three strikeouts.
Jeff Griffith (8-3) took the loss for South Mountain. The sophomore gave up five runs, all earned, on nine hits with one walk and three strikeouts in 3.1 innings.
The Mats are headed back to the West District Playoffs. The double-elimination tournament starts Thursday, May 17 and will include teams from Region 18 and Region 9. The location is still to-be-determined. You can check back next week at www.awcmatadors.com to see where the games will be.
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 2,300 certificates and degrees in 2016-17.