SIGNAL PEAK — Winning 8-0 in six innings, as the Central Arizona College softball team did in the opener of Saturday's home doubleheader against South Mountain, is always nice.
The Vaqueras had to come from behind to post a 6-4 victory in the second game, which wasn't necessarily a cause for concern.
"It's good for our team to be able to produce in pressure situations, which is very difficult to (simulate) in practice," CAC coach Sandra Wente said. "It's good preparation for some of the bigger ballgames (later in the season). But we've got a long way to go. We have to get a lot better quickly."
The Vaqueras are the defending Arizona Community College Athletic Conference champions and have won 11 in a row to boost their record to 14-1 overall and 8-0 in the ACCAC. With road doubleheaders against Phoenix (ranked No. 3 in Division II) on Tuesday and Scottsdale (No. 9 in D-II) on Thursday, the competition level figures to be several degrees higher.
Mikayla Austin won both games of the twinbill for the second time in a week, pitching a two-hitter in the opener and coming on in the third inning of Game 2 with the score tied 3-3. After striking out 11 and walking none for her fourth shutout, the sophomore right-hander from Florence held the Cougars to one run and two hits in 42⁄3 innings to improve to 10-0.
"The team plays well behind her," Wente said. "She's done a lot for us in two years and we're thankful to have her. There was no hesitation (about bringing Austin back in). It's a conference game, and we couldn't afford to give up any more runs."
South Mountain (6-8, 2-6) scored two unearned runs off Laura McLaughlin in the first inning of Game 2 and tied it 3-3 on Sarah Gore's RBI double with one out in the third. After Samantha Hansen was hit by a pitch with one out in the first, she came around on a throwing error. Gore's two-out single drove in Melissa Padilla to make it 2-0.
"The error wound up costing us two runs, but it happened early enough to where we could recover from it," Wente said.
Maddy Richard led off the CAC first with a single, stole second and took third on a wild pitch before scoring on Roblynn Silva's sacrifice fly.
The Vaqueras went up 3-2 in the second on a two-run single by No. 9 batter Marissa Ortiz. Jazmyn Dangaran and Rachel Carlos walked with one out, and SMCC starter Alexis Bandin hit Taylor Tribe to load the bases.
Ortiz, who went 3 for 3, put Central ahead to stay with an RBI double in the fourth off Ally Stoltzmann, who relieved Bandin following a double by Carlos and Tribe's single. Brooke Burchfield's run-scoring groundout with one gone in the inning made it 5-3.
Tribe, who went 2 for 2, gave the Vaqueras a 6-3 cushion with an RBI double in the sixth.
Secret Schellenberg homered leading off the SMCC seventh before Austin retired the next three batters. Austin had nine strikeouts — including four straight during one stretch — and issued one walk in her relief outing.
Central finished with nine hits in Game 2 after collecting 12 off SMCC pitchers Megan Mundell and Stoltzmann in the opener.
The Vaqueras took a 1-0 lead in Game 1 on Dangaran's second-inning RBI double. Paige Chalifoux, Ortiz and Silva came through with run-scoring singles in the fourth.
Central scored four runs off Stoltzmann in the sixth, getting an RBI single from Richard before Jade Yost ended the game under the mercy rule with a two-out, two-run double.
Richard and Yost both had two hits for the Vaqueras.
The only hits allowed by Austin were Schellenberg's triple leading off the first and a one-out double by Alyssa Gutierrez in the third.