AZUSA, Calif. -- As a player, there’s nothing better than lifting your team to an important league win with 5 RBIs in a 3-for-4 performance at the plate. Unless, that is, you’re Azusa Pacific senior Scott Hodsdon, who not only provided fireworks at the plate with his ninth home run of the season with a 2-run shot in the sixth but struck out 11 in an 8-inning effort to lift the NAIA’s No. 5-ranked Cougars to an 11-3 win over The Master’s Wednesday evening in Azusa.
“Usually in the first couple of innings, I’m just trying to get a feel for it,” said Hodsdon, “but then I just get in a groove and start to feel good, especially in the later innings. I seem to throw a little harder as the game gets later.”
Hodsdon tossed 3 perfect 1-2-3 innings, striking out the Mustangs side in both the fourth and seventh innings, and he got the Cougar offense rolling in the bottom of the first inning with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to center that gave Azusa Pacific a 1-0 lead. The Cougars added 3 more on freshman Brice Cutspec’s opposite-field shot that cleared the left-field fence with 2 outs in the first.
“I was just glad I was able to pitch well and also help my team offensively,” said Hodsdon, whose sixth-inning moonshot tied him for the team lead with 9 home runs. “I had a rough series against Point Loma, but I’ve been working on some things and was able to come out and get it done.”
Cutspec homered again in the bottom of the eighth inning to provide the final margin, crushing an 0-1 offering from Tyler Brown over the right-field fence onto Alosta Ave.. giving the Cougars an 11-3 lead. Sophomore Garrett Lebsock struck out 2 Mustangs batters in a perfect ninth inning to finish the game. Cutspec finished the day 4-for-5 with 4 RBIs, raising his season batting average to .477, including a .500 clip (23-for-46) in GSAC play.
“I felt I struggled a little bit over the last couple of weeks,” said Cutspec. “Tonight I really focused on staying back on the ball and letting it travel. Our offense is really good, and right now everybody’s just smashing the ball.”
Senior catcher Stephen Vogt continued his assault on opposing pitching, batting 2-for-3 with a pair of walks to raise his season average to an even .500. With 3 total home runs this evening, the Cougar offense has already matched its 2006 season total of 36 home runs. Thanks to a blazing start in which it has won 18 of its first 20 games, with the 2 losses each coming by a margin of just 1 run, Azusa Pacific entered the national rankings at No. 5 in the first NAIA coaches poll of the season, released earlier today by the NAIA national office.
“I really don’t think (being ranked) means a lot,” said Cougar head coach Paul Svagdis. “It doesn’t mean anything until the end of the season. It’s always nice for our guys to be recognized, but the league is so competitive, it’s not going to help us win tomorrow. All our guys are going to know (what our ranking is), because they’re better with the Internet than I am, but I hope our guys continue to play with a chip on their shoulder and realize they have to prove themselves every time they step on the field.”
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 18-2 overall, 11-2 in the GSAC, while The Master’s drops to 8-12 overall and 4-8 in GSAC play. The Cougars return the visit to Santa Clarita Thursday afternoon to wrap up the 2-game midweek series against The Master’s, then return home for a doubleheader with California Baptist Saturday at 11 a.m.