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Shaky start dooms Matadors vs. Roughriders
While the Arizona Western baseball team is getting closer, it isn't out of the woods yet. Despite an uncharacteristic barrage of hits and a ninth-inning rally, the Matadors fell 4-3 on Saturday to visiting Yavapai College.
Entering the weekend's two-game series, Arizona Western's team batting average sat at a paltry .217. The Matadors continued to struggle against Yavapai starter Zak Miller at the onset of Saturday's game, but ended up with a season-high 11 hits. But AWC couldn't get all-important hit No. 12, as sophomore catcher Wade Morten struck out looking to end the game, stranding Sergio Sanchez at third base.
“We're right there and the season's young,” AWC coach John Stratton said. “You don't like to lose in your own yard. ... You just got to stay with it. Today wasn't a day to go down there and chew on them because I think the effort's OK.”
Ultimately, the Matadors (6-10, 2-4 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) may have been doomed by the top of the first inning.
After getting two quick outs to start the contest, AWC starter Dorian Rivera allowed four straight Roughriders to reach base, putting the Matadors in an early 2-0 hole. Shortly after Yavapai's Tony Piazza delivered an RBI single, Rivera threw a wild pitch, allowing Josh Anderson to score.
Rivera settled down over the next three frames but gave up a solo shot to Jonathan Rodriguez on the fifth inning's first pitch. Rivera (0-2) was charged with the loss after giving up three earned runs on seven hits and a walk over five innings of work.
“I'm very pleased with our staff for the entire series,” Stratton said. “We battled to the end, it's not like we're giving up.”
Meanwhile, Miller held the Matadors in check for most of the afternoon, allowing an unearned run over 6 1/3 innings while striking out six and walking one. He left with one out in the seventh, as Cibola High grad Alex Miranda took over in relief. With Miranda on the mound, AWC was finally able to break through.
After reaching first on an error and moving to second on a Miller balk, Matador third baseman Tyler Spencer advanced to third on a sacrifice fly before scoring on an infield single by Dustin Devera. Devera took advantage of another Yavapai error to move to second base and eventually scored on a Karsten Strieby double, as Rodriguez's diving attempt in right field came up short and AWC cut the deficit to 3-2.
“We made a lot, a lot of mistakes,” Yavapai (13-7, 4-2) coach Sky Smeltzer said. “I feel lucky to get out of here with two wins, for sure. I think Western's a much better team than they were last year and I think they'll be just fine.”
Then the Roughriders tacked on another run in the top of the ninth, setting up Arizona Western's last-ditch effort.
Devera scored on an RBI fielders choice from Sanchez, who then advanced to third on a Strieby single, but Morten struck out to stifle the rally.
But just like his coach, Sanchez thinks the Matadors are close to turning the corner.
“We're starting to put all the pieces together,” Sanchez said. “Once all the pieces are really together, we're going to beat a lot of teams. It's just little things and we'll work on them in practice and hopefully in a couple games we'll be good.”