AZUSA, Calif. -- Scott Hodsdon led the NAIA’s No. 2-ranked Azusa Pacific to a 17-12, 6-0 doubleheader sweep over San Diego Christian, slamming his NAIA-leading 16th and 17 home runs in the first game before taking a perfect game into the sixth inning of the nightcap against the GSAC’s second-best offense, settling for a 1-hit gem that was the senior righthander’s second straight complete-game shutout.
Hodsdon struck out 5 batters through the first 5 innings, then hit a 2-run single in the bottom of the fifth to add a couple runs to the Cougars’ 1-0 lead. Azusa Pacific extended the lead to 4-0 later in the inning on a San Diego Christian error, and Hodsdon took the mound in the sixth inning with the perfect game at stake.
“I like people to be around me, and I like to interact with the guys,” said Hodsdon of his between-inning activities with the perfect game intact. “You’re always aware of it, especially as a pitcher when you have no hits against you, but I try not to think about it. I tried to keep it out of my head, so I could focus on getting outs.”
Garrett Lingle singled to right to break up the perfect game, but Hodsdon kept his composure, inducing 3 straight groundouts to the left side of the infield to keep the shutout intact.
“It’s nice to see him pitching well,” said Cougar head coach Paul Svagdis. “Having a guy like that who can go out and be your number one and get guys out is really important. The big challenge is how we keep him healthy and how we keep him in the lineup offensively. He’s like Bugs Bunny – we can plug him in anywhere.”
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Stephen Vogt hit a 2-run double to push the lead to 6-0, and Hodsdon, 7-for-10 with 8 RBIs on the day, was hit by Matt Luna’s first pitch rather than given the opportunity to do any more damage with the bat.
Hodsdon got his revenge by retiring the Hawks in order in the seventh to seal the complete-game 1-hit shutout, finishing off the win with a game-ending strikeout, his sixth of the game. San Diego Christian entered the game batting .334 as a team, ranking second in the conference behind only Azusa Pacific and its .353 team batting average.
“I’m seeing the ball really well right now, and my pitching’s going really well,” said Hodsdon, who has only given up 5 hits over his last 7 appearances, a span of over 21 innings. “(My ball) is moving a lot and getting people out. I’m feeling really comfortable and really confident right now.”
In the first game, San Diego Christian struck first, when Brandon Rauch’s single up the middle scored Kenoli Fonseca from second base to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead. Azusa Pacific answered by sending 11 batters to the plate in the bottom of the first, scoring 6 runs on just 2 hits in the inning. Leadoff hitter Matt Venegas was hit with the first pitch from Brendan McNamara, then scored on Vogt’s RBI single to left. After Hodsdon reached on a potential double-play ball to third was mishandled, Kirk Nieuwenhuis took full advantage of the opportunity, driving in a run with a double down the right field line. After Stephen Kohatsu was hit by another McNamara pitch to load the bases with just 1 out, Brice Cutspec fouled off 6 pitches with 2 strikes before drawing a 12-pitch RBI walk that gave the Cougars a 3-1 lead.
Stephen Gillette was hit by McNamara’s next pitch to push the lead to 4-1, and Eddie Crespo’s grounder to third was again misplayed into another Cougar run. Venegas drew an RBI walk before the Hawks turned an inning-ending double play.
Anthony Stewart led off the second with a single off the top of the right-center field fence, but Nieuwenhuis fired a perfect strike to Venegas to cut down Stewart at second base, and Hodsdon slammed a 1-2 pitch over the left field fence in the bottom of the inning to give the Cougars an 8-1 advantage.
San Diego Christian scored 2 runs each in the third and fourth innings, but Azusa Pacific posted single runs in the third, fifth and sixth innings to take an 11-5 advantage into the final 3 innings. Steve Tripp’s pinch-hit 3-run home run in the top of the seventh cut the lead to 11-9, but Hodsdon and Cutspec each hit run-scoring singles around Kohatsu’s sacrifice fly, giving the Cougars a 14-9 lead.
“(Baseball) is a game of attrition,” said Svagdis. “In that first game, as much as they hit the ball, we felt like it was a heavyweight match. It was two teams slugging it out. Our pitchers did what we asked them to do, which was throw strikes, and we didn’t give a lot of free passes. This is a park where a good hitting team is going to score a lot of runs.”
Brandon Rauch hit a 1-out home run in the top of the eighth for San Diego Christian, and the Hawks followed it up with a double and a 2-run shot from Aaron Vasquez, again closing to within 2 runs at 14-12. The Cougars answered with yet another 3-spot, as Galen Komo’s 1-out single to left-center scored Venegas from second base before Hodsdon went to the opposite field for a 2-out, 2-run home run to right to round out the scoring and give Azusa Pacific its final 17-12 margin.
“They’re a pretty confident group right now,” said Svagdis. “There’s no sign of panic when all of a sudden (the opponent) starts to creep back into that game. They did a great job of doing it with the home run, double and home run, and we’re only up two after having a pretty substantial lead in the middle of the game. We had a similar experience in the Cal Baptist game where we went down 2 on a 2-run homer in the eighth, and then we scored 3 to answer in the eighth. The more you experience it, the more you prove to yourself you can do it, and everyone in the dugout believes in it.”
With the sweep, Azusa Pacific has now won 12 straight GSAC games and 14 straight overall, improving to 34-4 overall, 23-3 in GSAC play. San Diego Christian, in the inaugural year of its baseball program, drops to 15-15 overall and 12-14 in GSAC play. The Cougar schedule eases up over the next 2 weeks, with the next conference action taking place in 2 weeks when Azusa Pacific visits Westmont for an April 14 doubleheader.
Tickets still remain for the Cougars’ April 4 visit to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, the Class A California League affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and they can be purchased for $5 each at the Felix Event Center ticket office on West Campus, the Alumni House on East Campus or through the Azusa Pacific baseball office. Azusa Pacific professor Dave McIntire will perform the national anthem just prior to the 6:05 p.m. start.