Nearly a year after winning the Junior College World Series, Yavapai College’s baseball team finds itself in the sticky position of simply hoping to qualify for the postseason in 2017.
The Arizona Conference’s fourth-place Roughriders took a positive step on Saturday, splitting a league doubleheader with second-place South Mountain Community College.
At Roughrider Park in Prescott, Yavapai succumbed 10-9 in Game 1 before bouncing back for a dramatic 8-7 walk-off win in Game 2.
South Mountain swept Yavapai in their first league twin-bill Feb. 17 in Phoenix. Yavapai, which finished 1-3 versus South this season, stands at 28-20 overall and 14-14 in conference. The Roughriders are now tied with Arizona Western (14-14), which has lost four straight, for the fourth and final seed into the NJCAA Region I, Division I playoffs in May.
South Mountain (33-15, 19-9) had lost three of its last four league contests heading into Saturday, including back-to-back shutout losses to Mesa C.C. last week. The Cougars are in a tight battle for first with D-I conference leader Cochise College (19-7 before the weekend).
Versus the Cougars in Game 2, Yavapai trailed 7-6 in the ninth until Dallas Tessar hit an RBI triple to tie it at 7-7. Later, with two outs and Caden Goldby at the plate, South reliever Aaron Stretch threw a wild pitch on a 2-1 count, scoring Tessar from third for the win.
Yavapai ace pitcher Jake Kolterman carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before things unraveled for him. Roughrider Cory Wills hit a three-run homer in the fifth that helped break open the game, 5-0. However, in the sixth, South ended Kolterman’s no-hit bid behind Jordan Rathbone’s two-run double.
Dylan Enwiller homered in the fifth to make it 6-2 Yavapai. But South scored four runs in the seventh to tie it at 6-6 and force Kolterman from the contest. In his no-decision, Kolterman allowed six runs, four earned, on four hits, striking out six and walking four.
South Mountain broke the tie in the ninth, as Lenny Walker scored from third on a wild pitch by YC reliever Andrew Gross. Gross backed into the victory, allowing one run on one hit in 2-2/3 innings. He struck out three and walked one. South burned through three pitchers prior to Stretch, who suffered the loss.
At the dish, Enwiller (2 for 3, homer, double, two RBIs), Jonathan Villa (1 for 4, homer) and Jaxxon Fagg (1 for 3, double, run scored) stood out for the hosts.
In the opener, Yavapai jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the second inning before South rallied, scoring a run in the third, two in the fourth and four in the fifth for an 8-4 advantage.
The Roughriders pulled within three, 8-5, through five frames. However, South held on for the win by plating two runs in the sixth.
With Yavapai down 10-7 in the seventh, Goldby ripped a two-out, two-run homer to left, bringing the tying run to the plate in Enwiller. Enwiller, who entered the day fifth in the league in homers with seven, flied out to center on three pitches to end it.
Roughriders redshirt sophomore starting pitcher Reza Aleaziz took the loss. He allowed eight runs, five earned, on nine hits, striking out three and walking two. Hayden Durkiewicz relieved Aleaziz in the sixth, giving up two runs on three hits, fanning two and walking one.
South Mountain left-handed starter Ryan Saltonstall, the reigning Arizona Conference D-I Pitcher of the Week for April 10, nabbed the victory in six innings. He allowed seven runs on six hits. But only one of those runs were earned, as the Cougars’ defense committed four errors. Saltonstall had five strikeouts and two walks.
Jimmy Dobrash earned the save in relief in the seventh. He surrendered two runs on two hits, avoiding a blown opportunity.
Offensively for South Mountain, Rathbone, who led the conference with 50 RBIs after Game 1, went 2 for 4 with a double, a triple, three RBIs and a run scored. Alonso Bibiano (2 for 4, run scored), Ian Raidy (2 for 4, two RBIs, two runs scored) and Walker (2 for 4, three runs scored, RBI) also contributed.
Entering Saturday, Rathbone was hitting .361 with 10 homers (second in league), 30 runs scored and 16 stolen bases. Raidy was second in the conference in stolen bases with 38. He stole his 39th in Game 1.
At the dish for Yavapai, Goldby was 2 for 3 with a homer, a double, two RBIs and two runs scored. Wills, second in the ACCAC in hitting with a .391 average, four homers, 20 RBIs and 24 runs scored going in, went 2 for 4 with a double and a run scored. Carlos Viera (2 for 3, two runs scored, RBI) and Jaxxon Fagg (1 for 2, RBI, two runs scored) factored in as well.
Yavapai plays another important conference twin-bill at noon and 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 18, at third-place Central Arizona College in Coolidge. The teams split in their first meeting Feb. 25 in Prescott.
The Roughriders will conclude the regular season with six straight home games, all in Division I play.
They include Saturday, April 22, versus conference leader and NJCAA D-I No. 8-ranked Cochise; Tuesday, April 25, against Arizona Western and Saturday, April 29, versus Eastern Arizona College. First pitches are scheduled for noon and 2:30 p.m. for each of these doubleheaders.