COOLIDGE, Ariz. – A thrilling game three capped the Region I Final on Saturday afternoon in Coolidge. Arizona Western squeezed past Central Arizona 7-6 to take the series 2-1 and claim its first Region I Championship since 1996. Region I MVP Jayden Murray was excellent in relief after closing the door to preserve the win.
With two on and no outs in the eighth and a 7-4 Matador lead, Murray came on in relief and allowed a two-run double to Jake Vander Wal that stayed fair in left field by inches to score the inherited runners and cut the lead to one run. . After that, Murray retired six straight to end the game. He blew a fastball by Alix Garcia to end the game on a strikeout in the bottom of the ninth. The save was Murray’s second of the year, and he finished the series with 10 innings pitched after earning a win in game one (8.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K).
The Mats (42-20) broke open the scoring in the second inning. With one on, Sean Roby demolished a 2-0 pitch over the left field wall that put AWC up 2-0. It was his sixth homer of the season. Yodelvy Merendez followed it up with a single, and then Manny Perez crushed an RBI double deep to center field that pushed the lead to 3-0. After Franky Chavez sent Perez to third with a single, Landon Riker ripped a grounder through the left side for a single that pushed the lead to 4-0.
The Vaqueros (40-21) took advantage of a Matador mistake to score in the third. With two outs and a runner on second, Pikai Winchester hit a grounder to short. The throw to first went wide and allowed the runner to score.
AWC answered with one in the fourth. With Riker at second and two outs, Snaider Torrealba hit a fly ball to shallow left field. The ball hit the wind and dropped before anyone could reach it, and Riker scored from second for a 5-1 lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, CAC’s Roger Varela hit a one-out RBI single to right field that cut the lead to 5-2. With runners on the corners, Pikai Winchester hit a grounder that Chavez flipped to Torrealba at second for an out, but the Mats couldn’t turn the double play as CAC scored to make it 5-3.
Again, the Mats answered with a run. Perez knocked a leadoff single and went to second on a balk. A sacrifice sent him to third, and Franky Chavez hit a sac fly to right field to bring him home for a 6-3 lead.
Winchester cut the lead to 6-4 with an RBI double in the seventh that chased Matador starter Irving Martin.
With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the eighth, Torrealba sliced a single just past a diving Alix Garcia at first base that scored one run for a 7-4 lead.
Martin (8-3) earned the win for AWC after not allowing more than two hits in a single inning in his 6.2 innings of work. He gave up four runs, three earned, on six hits while walking four and striking out seven. Fabian Muniz came on in relief to get out of the seventh inning before the first two runners reached (one on an error, one a double) to start the eighth inning.
Will McAffer (6-3) took the loss for Central Arizona. The right-hander pitched into the fourth inning and allowed four runs, all earned, on seven hits while walking one and striking out two.
Next week the Matadors will host the West District Championship in Yuma. The tournament is a four-team, double elimination tournament beginning next Thursday, and it features both Arizona Western and Central Arizona as well as the College of Southern Nevada from Region 18 and Trinidad State Junior College from Region 9. Check www.awcmatadors.com for the full tournament schedule early next week once all the teams are announced. Day passes are $8, and a tournament pass is $20. No single game tickets are available.
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.