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Preview: Roughriders set to open Region I finals series Thursday in Phoenix against Central Arizona
Junior College Baseball

Much of the playing surface at Roughrider Park in Prescott sits under water Wednesday, May 8, 2019, as local storms force the NJCAA Region I Playoff finals to be relocated to Phoenix. The best-of-three finals series between Yavapai College and Central Arizona begins Thursday, May 9, at Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix. (Brad Clifford/Courtesy)

Much of the playing surface at Roughrider Park in Prescott sits under water Wednesday, May 8, 2019, as local storms force the NJCAA Region I Playoff finals to be relocated to Phoenix. The best-of-three finals series between Yavapai College and Central Arizona begins Thursday, May 9, at Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix. (Brad Clifford/Courtesy)

Weather, poor field conditions at Roughrider Park in Prescott force finals relocation

PRESCOTT — For all the unlucky breaks the Yavapai College baseball team has pushed through this season, mother nature yet again proved she yields the biggest stick in the yard.

Hail the size of quarters fell for nearly 10 minutes Wednesday in Prescott, and with Tuesday’s storms, and more to come over the next few days, Yavapai College Athletic Director announced that Roughrider Park is unplayable.

With that, the NJCAA Region I Playoff best-of-three finals series with No. 4-seeded Central Arizona, which was supposed to be hosted by No. 3-seeded Yavapai, is now moving to Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix.

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NJCAA Region I Playoff finals schedule. (Courier photo)

After spending the first 28 games on the road in 2019 due to field conditions and weather issues, not to mention the inability to even practice at Roughrider Park, Yavapai players don’t spend much time being disappointed, skipper Ryan Cougill said.

“A lot of unlucky stuff has happened that isn’t controllable,” Cougill said. “Other groups, I’d probably worry. But this one? They take it on the chin and keep going.”

THE MATCHUP

The Roughriders (36-17, 24-14 ACCAC) split the season series with the Vaqueros three games apiece, but have lost two straight against Central Arizona after being swept during a weekend series in Casa Grande on April 20.

SCOUTING REPORT

The Vaqueros (40-18, 24-14 ACCAC) have one of the top pitching staffs in the nation sporting a 2.87 ERA, which is ninth in the country. The club has the sixth-most shutouts (10) and held lineups to a .217 clip (6th) this season.

Offensively, however, the club averages 6.6 runs per game, but strikes out at an alarming rate with 423 on the season (7.29 per game), ranking them almost dead-last (162nd) in the country. The hefty swings haven’t translated into power as the Vaqueros tallied only 27 home runs (97th) all season.

By comparison, Yavapai hitters struck out 333 times (82nd) at the plate this season, but hit 46 home runs.

Cougill said it will be important to just stick with the “basics” if they are to win the series.

“Throwing strikes and playing defense. It sounds simple and cliché, but that’s what it is,” Cougill said. “We’re good enough, if we play a good brand of baseball, we have a chance to win.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Yavapai’s Christian Encarnacion-Strand arguably put on one of the best hitting performances of any player in the country this spring.

Hitting .404 with an OPS of 1.307, the freshman third baseman had 21 home runs and 66 RBIs this season. He’s one shy of No. 1-ranked Wabash Valley’s Cael Baker (22) for the national lead in homers, hit 19 doubles and scored 60 runs to lead the Roughriders.

On the mound, Trey Morrill was 7-3 with a 2.51 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 68-2/3 innings pitched.

For Central Arizona, Zach Hogueisson hit .314 with nine home runs and 55 RBIs while recording 18 doubles.

On the mound for the Vaqueros, Lucas Knowles was 8-2 with a 1.23 ERA and 83 strikeouts compared to only 23 walks.

INJURY REPORT

Yavapai pitcher William Sierra is still ailing from an ankle injury after he rolled it in game three of the Region I semifinals attempting to cover home plate. It is unknown whether he will be available this weekend.

Starting pitcher Matt Novis (7-4, 1.68 ERA) hasn’t thrown in a few weeks, Cougill reported.

UP NEXT

Yavapai will send Morrill (7-3, 2.51 ERA) to the mound Thursday in the best-of-three series opener in Phoenix. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. at Paradise Valley C.C. in Phoenix.

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.

ROUGHRIDER BASEBALL GAMEDAY GLANCE

Who: Central Arizona vs. Yavapai College

What: NJCAA Region I Playoff Finals, Game 1

When: Friday, May 9, 2019, 3 p.m.

Where: Paradise Valley Community College, Phoenix

Records: Yavapai College (36-17, 24-14 ACCAC) advanced to the championship series by beating South Mountain Community College, 2-1 in a three-game series May 1-3 in Phoenix; Central Arizona (40-18, 24-14 ACCAC) advanced to the title series by sweeping Cochise College in the best of three series, 2-0 in Douglas on May 1 and 2.

All-Time: Yavapai is 86-77 against the Vaqueros.

Last Meeting: YC dropped a doubleheader to Central Arizona on April 20, 2019 in Prescott, 7-6 and 11-7.

First Ever Meeting: On March 6, 1971, YC swept the Vaqueros, 8-6 and 5-1.

The Setting: The Roughriders are 20-13 away from Roughrider Park this season.

Players to Watch: Yavapai—Christian Encarnacion-Strand and Cody Holtz; Central Arizona – Zach Hogueisson and Ernny Odonez.

Coaches: Yavapai—Ryan Cougill (259-143, 7th season); Central Arizona – Anthony Gillich.

Fun Fact: The winner of this series advances to the NJCAA Western District Finals at a site not yet announced.

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