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Marquez's clutch hitting helps Matadors sweep Yavapai
Matadors 6, Roughriders 5
Yavapai 1201010— 5
AWC 1010211— 6
2B: Yavapai, Oliver, Hill, Eifert; AWC, Bagget, Mendoza, Paul, Marquez 2 HR: AWC, Ploesch (2) RBI: Yavapai, Oliver (9), Redman (n/a); AWC, Ploesch 2 (12), Marquez 2 (12), Mendoza (9) WP: Leitner (3-1) LP: Zuniga-Romero (4-6)
Matadors 14, Roughriders 10
Yavapai 4000123 — 10
AWC 302108X — 14
2B: Yavapai, Thompson; AWC, Caro 2, Marquez, Roman, Ehrig HR: AWC, Miranda (2), Alvara (2) RBI: Yavapai, Heimburg 3 (8), Oliver (10), Yost (5), Hill 2 (8), Luera (n/a), Gourdin (n/a); AWC, Caro (n/a), Marquez 4 (16), Alvara 3 (15), Ehrig 3 (n/a), Miranda 2 (n/a) WP: Miller (5-1) LP: Thompson (1-1)
Clutch hitting was missing the last time the Arizona Western softball team played.
April Marquez provided enough for the entire team in a home doubleheader Tuesday against Yavapai.
Marquez hit a walkoff double in Game 1 and a go-ahead three-run homer in the sixth inning of Game 2 as the Matadors swept perennial power Yavapai 6-5 and 14-10.
It was the first time the Matadors — coming off a surprising road sweep at the hands of Scottsdale on Saturday — swept the Roughriders (6-9 overall, 2-6 Arizona Community College Athletic Association), although Yavapai has been struggling this year like never before.
“It's still nice, because they're still a DI team,” coach Nikki Bethurum said. “That's how you get to the playoffs.”
The Matador bats started slow in Game 1 — which was their main problem in the sweep by the Artichokes. Trailing by as much as three early, the game was tied going into the seventh. Pinch hitter Morgan Paul led the inning with a double, then Courtnie Ploesch — already with a home run and single — was walked intentionally. With one out, Marquez ripped her shot to right to end the game.
“Just make contact, and everything will work out,” Marquez said. “Moments like that, you're pumped up and the adrenaline is rushing, but you have to calm down. That's exactly what I did.”
In Game 2, Yavapai struck with four in the top of the first. AWC trailed 7-6 going into the bottom of the sixth when the Matadors (12-6, 4-2) exploded for eight runs. Lauren Miranda led things off with her second home run of the year, then Ploesch singled and Caro reached on an error to set up Marquez's go-ahead blast. AWC added four more in the inning, three on a double by Summer Ehrig.
“(Marquez) was clutch today, and that's the key,” Bethurum said. “Against Scottsdale we had enough hits, we just didn't have enough in the clutch. We didn't have hits when we had runners on base. That was the difference today. We got runners on base, and we got hits to get them in.”
The Roughriders struck first in the opener but AWC tied the game in the bottom of the first on Ploesch's second home run of the year, a shot to straight-away center. But the Roughriders tagged starter Briana VanSickle for three more runs and chased her before recording an out in the fourth. The Matadors tied the game at 4-4 in the fifth when Ploesch singled home Ehrig and tried to go to second. Catcher Brooke Eifert threw to second to try to get AWC's speedy center fielder, but the throw went off Ploesch's helmet and into shallow center field, allowing Ploesch to score the tying run.
“It feels great to see the team come out fighting how we were supposed to,” Ploesch said. “It was a whole different team from Saturday. Saturday we came out flat, today we wanted it. That's what made us come out the way we did. Our bats came out really good and everything went really good.”
The teams traded runs in the sixth to knot the game at five, and the seventh-inning rally made a winner out of Jessica Leitner (3-1), who allowed one unearned run in four innings.
AWC answered Yavapai's big first inning of the second game with three of its own on Robyn Alvara's second home run of the season. The Matadors took the lead in the fourth when Marquez doubled home Mariah Caro, then scored on an error. After her first hiccup, Hayley Miller (5-1) cruised until the fifth, when she gave up one, followed by two more in the sixth that put Yavapai up 6-5. She was pulled in the seventh and finished allowing 10 runs, five earned.
“We knew coming into (Game 2) it was going to be a challenge, and we really needed these two wins,” Ploesch said. “Once we won the first one, all the nerves were out and we're ready to play the second game.”
Bethurum said the team was playing with confidence throughout the doubleheader, coming up with clutch hit after clutch hit. And that was especially true of third baseman and catcher Marquez.
“We were playing with the most confidence we ever had, especially after the first win, with the walkoff like that,” Marquez said. “Our intensity was up. In the first inning we kind of fell apart, but we brought it back. We didn't lose it at all.”