Knowing it was going to be a tough doubleheader for them, the Pima Aztecs baseball team brought its best performance to sweep No. 1 Central Arizona, 6-3 in the first game and 12-6 in the second game, upsetting the Vaqueros at the Pima West baseball field.
Central Arizona lost only four times in 43 games entering Saturday before the Aztecs achieved the sweep.
Pima (30-14, 17-11 ACCAC) was swept by Central Arizona (39-6, 23-5) earlier in the season. Those losses left a sour taste in its mouth, making these wins that much sweeter.
“It feels great. Our guys trusted their abilities no matter who they’re playing,” Pima coach Ken Jacome said. “That’s a really good team. They’re ranked No. 1 in the country for a reason and we talked about it all week. We have a really good team in our dugout, so we just gotta go out and play like we’re capable and good things will happen.”
The Aztecs held the Vaqueros to just three runs in eight innings following a masterful pitching performance by Aiden May in the second game. Incredible plays made by the defense helped May.
“It’s pretty biased but I think we have the best defense in the conference,” shortstop Romeo Ballesteros said. “It showed today. It’ll show pretty much every game, on paper, on person, whatever you want. I think for our pitchers to know that they have a good defense behind them is super important. They knew that. They know they have a good seven, eight guys behind them.”
Pima took a late lead in the first game at the bottom of the sixth inning. Josh Lackner hit an RBI single on the first pitch thrown to him, driving in a runner for a 2-1 lead.
The Aztec bats really got going in the third inning, scoring four runs. Both Trent Kiraly and Lackner moved runners to home plate to improve the lead to 6-1.
Central Arizona managed to score two runs at the top of the seventh inning due to a two-run homer by Jaylin Rae, but the next batter struck out, solidifying the win for Pima.
The Aztecs’ hot streak on the plate continued in the second game. At the bottom of the first inning, Ballesteros was the second batter with one out.
Ballesteros homered to centerfield to open the scoring.
With one out and runners on second and third base at the top of the second inning, Vaqueros infielder Chase Valentine hit into a fielder’s choice, driving in a run to tie the game at 1.
After a scoreless third inning that saw both pitchers retire the side, Central Arizona took a 3-1 lead at the top of the fourth.
The Aztecs answered back that very inning, scoring four runs.
Kiraly hit to centerfield for an RBI single, driving in Ballesteros. Andrew Stucky then hit an RBI single to right field. Fernando Loera got the last RBI of the inning by hitting a single into left field.
The Aztecs put on two more runs in the fifth inning to stretch their lead to 7-3.
With one out, Lackner on third base and Ballesteros on first, Preston Clifford hit a suicide-squeeze sacrifice bunt to advance Lackner home.
Corona then singled to left field to drive in Ballesteros.
Pima continued to add to their run count in the seventh inning, driving in five runs
With Metsas on third, Ballesteros on second and one out, Corona hit to left field for a two-run single.
Stucky then hit to left field, scoring Clifford and advancing Corona to second base.
Jose Enriquez was the last one to score for the Aztecs and did so in spectacular fashion. He nailed a two-run RBI triple to advance both Corona and Isaiah Pintor, who pinch-ran for Stucky.
The huge inning put Pima ahead, 12-3 going into the top of the eighth inning.
“I just think that when we had opportunities to score some runs, we did and it deflated their dugout a little bit, “Jacome said. “We just kept pouring it on. I think that when that happens, it’s hard to come back.”
Central Arizona scored three runs at the top of the ninth inning, but it wasn’t enough as the Aztecs held on to win with a final score of 12-6.
May was an incredible help to the Aztecs on defense. He picked up the win on eight innings pitched, four runs allowed, three earned, on five hits with eight strikeouts on 104 pitches.
“They (the defense) played well because Aiden May threw strikes, ” Jacome said. “He threw a bunch of strikes later in the game and there weren’t a lot of walks. He did a great job in commanding the zone and our defense was ready for anything that was hit to them.
Ballesteros had four hits in five at bats, an RBI and four runs scored. Clifford went 3-for-5 with an RBI and one run.
Corona was 2-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs. Stucky went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and a run.
Pima will hit the road to Prescott for their next game Tuesday. It will play Yavapai College in a doubleheader. The first game begins at 12 p.m.