AZUSA, Calif. -- Eddie Crespo just wanted to move the runner from third. With the bases loaded with 1 out in a tie ballgame in the bottom of the seventh, Crespo did just what he wanted – he brought Grant Beyer home from third base for the game-winning run. However, he also drove in Brice Cutspec from second base and Stephen Gillette from first. In fact, Crespo smacked his first home run of the season in grand (slam) fashion to lift Azusa Pacific to a doubleheader sweep over visiting Westmont with an 8-4 victory in the nightcap after the Cougars knocked the ball all over, around and out of the park in the 14-3 win in the first game.
“I was just trying to get the runner in so we could win the game,” said Crespo. “I got all of it.”
The Cougars entered the seventh inning protecting a 4-3 lead, but left-handed reliever Zach Pettikas surrendered a 1-out single to Nathan Dreesman, then walked Andy Dude before a sacrifice bunt moved Dreesman and Dude to second and third with 2 outs. Anthony Martinez beat out an infield single to score Dreesman and tie the game at 4-4 before Pettikas induced a fly out to left to end the Warrior rally.
“I had complete confidence in Pettikas,” said Cougar head coach Paul Svagdis. “He throws a great pitch and there’s a Texas leaguer that finds the right spot in right field. He did a great job.”
Sophomore Kirk Nieuwenhuis reached on a grounder to shortstop to lead off the inning, taking advantage of a wild throw to advance to second with no outs. Beyer’s sacrifice bunt to third base was misplayed, and Cutspec was intentionally walked to load the bases with no outs and set up a force out at any base. Westmont starter Jonathan White induced a grounder to short from Gillette, cutting down Nieuwenhuis at home to keep the bases loaded with 1 out before Crespo stepped to the plate to seal the sweep with his walk-off blast over the right-field fence.
“I’m excited for the guys,” said Svagdis. “They really have confidence and belief that no matter what the situation is, they can win. We’ve done that a couple times now in the late innings, and it’s something you can feel in the dugout.”
Cougar starter Ryan Zaft struck out 5 batters in the first 3 innings before running into trouble in the top of the fourth inning, giving up an RBI double to Luke Montzingo and a fielder’s choice that brought Montzingo across home plate for a 3-2 Westmont lead. Azusa Pacific answered in the bottom of the fourth, as Crespo led off the inning with a single and eventually came around to score on a wild pitch to tie the game at 3-3.
“It’s human nature to expect to score 10 or 12 runs again,” said Svagdis, whose squad is averaging nearly 12 runs a game this season. “Then you get to the third or fourth inning in a 7-inning game, and that’s really the late innings. Westmont played their tail off, and White pitched really well. He kept us off-balance.”
The Cougars regained the lead in the fifth inning, as Nieuwenhuis led off the inning with a laser to left center for a double then scored on Cutspec’s RBI double for a 4-3 lead. Pettikas retired the first 7 batters he faced before Westmont rallied to tie the game in the seventh.
“I think we’re a little more mature than we have been, where (our veterans) know this stuff can be fleeting, and they know this can be a long season,” said Svagdis. “I told the guys at the beginning of the year to treat the season like a marathon and not come out of the gates too fast with our emotional energy, although I’d rather be on this end of it than the other end. College baseball gets really emotionally charged at times, so we’re trying to put our time in and be there at the end of the marathon.”
In the opener, Azusa Pacific used a 6-run fourth inning to turn a 1-run, 3-2 ballgame into a 9-2 blowout. Cutspec, who enjoyed a 3-hit performance, led off the frame with a double and scored on Gillette’s double to right field. Galen Komo’s single moved Gillette to third, and he beat the throw to pitcher Jamie Barth at the plate after a wild pitch, and Komo scooted around to third when the ball rolled away.
Barth, who was shaken up by the contact at the plate, walked Javier Ochoa and was lifted from the game with the top of the Cougar lineup coming up for the third time in the game. Rod Wilson ran for Ochoa and stole second, and the throw to second was wide of the bag and rolled into center field, allowing Komo to score and Wilson to move to third, still with no outs. Matt Venegas drew another walk, and Beyer’s sacrifice fly scored Wilson for a 7-2 lead. After Scott Hodsdon singled up the middle, designated hitter Stephen Kohatsu doubled in a pair of runs to wrap up the 6-run explosion. Kohatsu finished 2-for-4 with 3 RBIs in the game.
Gillette hit his team-leading ninth home run of the year to lead off the fifth, giving Azusa Pacific a 10-3 lead, and Kohatsu and Cutspec hit back-to-back RBI singles in the sixth to give the Cougars a 12-3 lead.
Cutspec reached base in 7 of his 8 plate appearances, going 4-for-5 with a pair of walks and a hit-batsman. He scored 3 runs and drove in 4, including his fourth home run of the season, a 1-out liner that just cleared the right field fence to spark a 3-run second inning in the first game. Venegas drove in the other 2 of the second with a 2-run double off the right-field fence, and his 2-for-4 effort made him 1 of 6 Cougars with multiple hits in a 16-hit attack in the opener.
Sophomore left-hander Jonny Bravo struck out 5 Westmont batters in 5 innings to earn his third victory of the season, and Garrett Lebsock and Carlos Alvarenga combined for 4 scoreless innings of relief. Alvarenga, pitching in his first game of the season, struck out 3 in 3 innings of work to pick up the save.
With the sweep, Azusa Pacific improves to 14-1 overall, 7-1 in the GSAC, and the Cougars remain tied for first in the conference with Point Loma Nazarene, which picked up a road sweep over Fresno Pacific this afternoon. Westmont drops to 1-11 overall, 0-8 in GSAC. The Cougars take on Vanguard in a home-and-home series Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 28 and March 1, before visiting Point Loma Nazarene for an 11 a.m. doubleheader Saturday, March 3 in San Diego.