College Baseball: Yavapai College freshman delivers big game
PRESCOTT - Freshman infielder Tony Piazza missed all of last season after sustaining a blood clot injury, but he was there when his team needed him most on Saturday afternoon at Roughrider Park.
Down 4-3 in the bottom of the sixth inning with runners on second and third, Piazza ripped a line drive single up the middle, giving the Yavapai College baseball team a 5-4 victory against Lamar Community College (Colo.) in the first game of a double header.
"Tony is on fire right now," YC coach Sky Smeltzer said. "There are not a lot of people getting him out right now. I know it was hard on Tony sitting out all last year. He had those blood clots that transferred into his lungs and that's a scary deal... . I couldn't be more happy for him having this success."
Piazza, who entered the game as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the fifth inning, went 1 for 2 and had two RBIs.
"It feels great (to be back)," he said. "I'm just happy we got some wins."
The victory was the team's third straight against the Runnin' Lopes.
"(Lamar is) one of the top 25 teams in the country for sure," Smeltzer said. "We could've quit and said, 'Aww forget it', but they are showing me they are fighters and the camaraderie is good right now."
Lamar's starter Arturo Maltos-Garcia pitched 5 1/3 innings and gave up one run, but left the bases loaded for reliever Brandon Ward-Hersee, who entered the game midway through the sixth.
"(Maltos-Garcia) has good stuff," Smeltzer said. "He had signed to go to the University of New Mexico and now I know why... . I think our kids finally found out that he wasn't coming inside. Everything he was throwing was away."
YC trailed 4-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth.
"We came alive at the right time," Smeltzer said. "I felt like we kept having good at bats and we wore (their starting pitcher) down. He got tired there at the end and gave us a chance."
Sophomore Albert Alvarez started off the inning with a double to left center, while sophomore catcher Nolan Clark was walked, which set up first and second with no outs.
After a Josh Anderson fly out to left field, Tony Vocca hit an infield single to load the bases.
Freshman right fielder Jonathan Rodriguez scored Alvarez from third, hitting a sacrifice fly to center, which moved Yavapai College within two runs of the lead.
The next better, freshman center fielder Dean Friedberg, who was instrumental in the team's 3-0 win over Lamar on Friday, hit an infield single to the second baseman, driving in another run.
That set up Piazza for the game-winning hit.
"We just kept battling," YC starting pitcher sophomore Andrew Walter said. "That's what our team is about."
Walter pitched five innings and gave up four runs, before he was replaced with sophomore reliever Robert Orozco in the top of the sixth.
"Andrew did a good job," Smeltzer said. "He got dinked and ducked a little bit, but for the most part he battled the strike zone pretty good... . He competed pretty well for us."
Orozco pitched one inning and gave up no runs, before giving way to closer Miguel Silva in the seventh.
Silva hit the first two batters in the final inning, but recovered nicely, ending the game with a strikeout and a ground out to third.
"He didn't lose his composure after hitting two guys and he came back and battled," Walter said.
Anderson went 2 for 3 with two singles.
Friedberg was 2 for 3 with an RBI.
In Game 2, Zak Miller fanned seven to earn the win in YC's 3-2 victory.
Miguel Silva got the save.
Nolan Clark and Jonathan Rodriguez each went 2 for 3, while Dean Friedberg was 2 for 2.