Pima Community College sports

Pima falls to South Mountain in region championship, to compete in district tourney

Pima coach Ken Jacome, who won his 200th game in his career as the Aztecs’ coach this season, is also now the college’s athletic director (Gilbert Alcaraz/Special to AllSportsTucson.com)

The unfortunate news is Pima College’s baseball team lost to visiting South Mountain 11-1 on Saturday in the championship of the NJCAA Region I, Division I tournament.

What matters most, however, is that the Aztecs (45-16) can still win the West District championship this week at South Mountain and advance to the NJCAA national tournament in Grand Junction, Colo.

South Mountain’s victory Saturday earned it the right to host the district tournament at its Phoenix campus. Because the host school is within Pima’s region, the Aztecs also qualify because the top two teams from the region make the district field.

Last year, when Pima advanced to the West District tournament at Beatrice, Neb., after winning the region title, two teams from Nebraska were part of that competition.

“We just didn’t play very well in all phases; we’ve got to be better if we want to move on,” Pima coach Ken Jacome said after Saturday’s loss by 10 runs. “We just didn’t play our game. The good thing about it is we’ve qualified for the district tournament and that’s the one that really matters.”

The district tournament begins Thursday. Matchups and game times have yet to be announced.

“The only thing we we’re playing for is to play at home,” Jacome said, referring to Pima having the opportunity to host the district tournament if it beat South Mountain on Saturday. “But outside of that, you still have to win a tournament against good competition, no matter where you play.

“We’ll be ready. I’m confident in these guys and they’ll be ready to go next week.”

South Mountain, the No. 4 seed, won two of the games in the best-of-three series at the Aztec West Campus Field.

Pima lost the first game 3-1 on Thursday and bounced back to win the second game 8-2 on Friday.

South Mountain (36-25) put together 10 hits off five Pima pitchers and took advantage of the Aztecs’ three errors and three wild pitches in Saturday’s victory for the Cougars.

South Mountain achieved a region title despite being four games under .500 24 games into the season.

“We have a really resilient group pretty much the last month and a half,” South Mountain coach Todd Eastin said. “I think everybody counted us out when we were 10-14. We found a way to win a couple games, and shoot, we got into the playoffs scoring six runs in the last inning of the regular season.

“So ultimately, these guys are playing on house money and just keep fighting away.”

The Cougars have two players from Southern Arizona — right-handed relief pitchers Alex Urias-Calvillo of Walden Grove and Luis Martin Romero of Nogales.

Urias-Calvillo, a sophomore, leads the Cougars with seven saves and he is 3-3 with a 4.37 ERA with 40 strikeouts and 18 walks in 45 1/3 innings.

Romero, a freshman, is 5-5 with a 4.25 ERA. He made three starts this season, one a complete game. He has 27 strikeouts and 16 walks in 36 innings.

“Both have been huge parts of our bullpen,” Eastin said. “I mean, Alex has pretty much pitched every day or every other day. Luis has done really well. He pitched 4 2/3 shut-out innings last week at Central Arizona (in the opening round of the regional tournament). He basically got us to this week.”

Eastin and Jacome along with former Arizona pitcher Rob Shabansky of Gateway Community College are all baseball coaches in the ACCAC who are also athletic directors.

Jacome, a Rincon/University graduate, was appointed Pima’s new athletic director on April 30, replacing Jim Monaco, who retired.

“Ken talked to me about (becoming the athletic directo) during our last series of the regular season, and he said, ‘Hey, what advice can you give me?'” said Eastin, in his 14th year as South Mountain’s athletic director. “I’m not about giving much advice. I’m just trying to survive. But ultimately, the advice I give is you just gotta give all the programs love.

“Ultimately, if you give all the programs love, your programs will do well.”

Jacome took the advice of Eastin and Shabansky to heart when he took over for Monaco.

Much like Eastin at South Mountain and Shabansky at Gateway, Jacome is already well respected at Pima and the community.

He and his brother Jason, Pima’s pitching coach, share in the name Jacome that is rich in historic value to the city’s development.

Jacome’s downtown was a Tucson tradition. The three-generation, family-owned department store represented one of the many successes achieved by the dedicated people who pioneered this city more than a century ago. The store, frequented by customers from Tucson and Mexico, was in operation from 1896 to 1980 with the last 30 years at Stone and Pennington. When that location opened in 1951 the store was reported to be worth $1 million, a great amount in those days.

“I’ll lean on those guys early on, just in case there are situations where I may need some valuable information,” Ken Jacome said of his conversations with Eastin and Shabansky. “I think it’s just a great opportunity to lead a an unbelievable department.

“We have great coaches, with great programs. I think the opportunity to jump in and continue the success and move it even further ahead. It was something I just didn’t want to turn down.”

In Saturday’s loss, sophomore Nick Arias (Tucson High grad) finished the game 1 for 4 while freshman Nolan Ganter went 1 for 2 with two walks.

Freshman Chase Cummings was 1 for 2. Sophomore Antonio Avila finished with a hit in his lone at-bat and Shackelford and a run and a walk.


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator in 2016 and is presently a special education teacher at Sunnyside High School in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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