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Roughriders win Game 1 behind another Encarnacion-Strand blast
Junior College Baseball

Christian Encarnacion-Strand strokes a double as the Roughriders take on Paradise Valley on March 26. Encarnacion-Strand was 2 for 4 with a two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning as the Roughriders took Game 1 7-3 of the Region I Playoff semifinals series against South Mountain on Thursday, May 2, 2019, in Phoenix. (Les Stukenberg/Courier, file)

Christian Encarnacion-Strand strokes a double as the Roughriders take on Paradise Valley on March 26. Encarnacion-Strand was 2 for 4 with a two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning as the Roughriders took Game 1 7-3 of the Region I Playoff semifinals series against South Mountain on Thursday, May 2, 2019, in Phoenix. (Les Stukenberg/Courier, file)

Game 2 of NJCAA Region I Playoff set for Friday against Cougars

PHOENIX — Reigning ACCAC Player of the Year Christian Encarnacion-Strand was 2 for 4 but his two-run blast in the top of the ninth inning squashed any momentum South Mountain could muster in a 7-3 win for Yavapai College on Thursday afternoon.

The game one win in the semifinals of the NJCAA Region I Playoff marked the third straight for the Roughriders (35-16, 24-14 ACCAC), which led 5-3 at the time of Encarnacion-Strand’s home run.

“It took the wind out of their sails,” Yavapai skipper Ryan Cougill said about South Mountain’s momentum and the timing of his freshman third baseman’s big hit, coming shortly after the Cougars plated two runs in the bottom of the seventh.

Channy Ortiz took a walk in the ninth to set up Encarnacion-Strand’s big fly. Ortiz was 2 for 4 with two RBIs and a run scored in the leadoff spot for Yavapai.

Encarnacion-Strand (20 homers) now trails Cael Baker (21) of Wabash Valley College (Illinois) by only one for the national lead in home runs this season.

Other standouts at the plate for Yavapai included Gianni Tomasi was 1 for 5 with a home run and two RBIs, while Rocky Botello was 1 for 3 with a triple and an RBI. Cody Holtz added two hits and an RBI in the win.

On the mound, Trey Morrill scattered five hits and allowed three runs, two earned, with 10 strikeouts in six innings.

“His strike percentage was very good,” Cougill said about Morrill. “There were [a few] moments of momentum shifts that he handled really well.”

Morrill threw 65 pitches for a strike compared to 36 balls in a 101-pitch effort.

South Mountain (38-19, 25-13 ACCAC) countered on the mound with Jack Radford, who allowed four runs on six hits in five innings. The freshman had nine strikeouts on 99 pitches.

J.D. Wadleigh and Bobby Pierce each had two hits and an RBI for the Cougars, who were 7-3 in their last 10 games coming into Thursday’s playoff game.

The Roughriders are now 4-2 against South Mountain this season.

UP NEXT

Game two in the best-of-three semifinal series of the Region I Playoff featuring Yavapai and South Mountain is set for a 2 p.m. first pitch Friday.

Cougill said Thursday night he was still unsure who he would start on the mound in game two against the Cougars. Originally, Riley Egloff was scheduled to go but ended up throwing 21 pitches in the bottom of the ninth Thursday to secure the victory.

“We decided to worry about tomorrow, tomorrow,” Cougill said.

Either Dominic Hamel (6-3, 3.82 ERA) or William Sierra (3-1, 4.50 ERA) could be likely choices for Cougill on Friday.

If the Roughriders win, they’ll advance to the Region I Playoff finals next week against either Central Arizona College in Prescott, or on the road at Cochise College. Central Arizona beat Cochise 7-3 on Thursday in game one of their best-of-three series.

If South Mountain wins, the two clubs will play a winner-take-all game at noon Saturday.

Brian M. Bergner Jr. is news/sports editor for The Daily Courier of Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and SoundCloud at @TheEditorDesk. Email bbergner@prescottaz.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.

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