AZUSA, Calif. -- A patient offense and solid pitching led the NAIA’s No. 2-ranked Azusa Pacific to an 8-3 win over La Verne Wednesday afternoon in the Cougars’ final non-conference tuneup before returning to GSAC play for the 10-game conclusion of the regular season
Stephen Vogt and Matt Venegas each drew a pair of walks, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Stephen Gillette and Galen Komo each collected 3 hits to lead the Cougars’ 12-hit attack.
Nieuwenhuis came on for 4 hitless innings of relief, allowing just 1 baserunner on a sixth-inning leadoff walk to pick up the win, and Scott Hodsdon extended his scoreless innings streak to 27 2/3 innings after striking out 3 batters in the bottom of the ninth inning.
La Verne led 3-1 after 5 innings, but Azusa Pacific took advantage of every opportunity in the top of the sixth, taking the lead for good with 4 runs on 2 hits in the top of the sixth. Nieuwenhuis was hit by pitch to lead off the sixth, stole second and third base, and James O’Neill walked to set up Gillette’s RBI single to left that cut the La Verne lead to 3-2. After Eddie Crespo’s bunt was misplayed by La Verne pitcher Jimmy Wilfong to load the bases with no outs.
Brice Cutspec tied the game at 3-3 by driving in O’Neill with a sacrifice fly to center, and Venegas’ groundout to first scored Gillette from third to give the Cougars the lead at 4-3. Komo singled through the left side to score Crespo to wrap up the 4-run inning.
After issuing the sixth-inning leadoff walk, Nieuwenhuis retired the next 9 batters he faced in his third pitching appearance of the season. The Cougars added a single run in the top of the eighth inning on another Komo RBI single, and Nieuwenhuis led off the top of the ninth with a triple to straightaway center. Gillette drove him in with an RBI single, then scored on Chris Feicht’s RBI single up the middle to wrap up the scoring.
After walking the leadoff batter, Hodsdon struck out 3 of the next 4 batters swinging to seal the victory.
Despite drawing a pair of walks, Vogt went 0-for-3 to snap his 27-game hitting streak, although he has reached safely in 38 of the Cougars’ 39 games this season.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 35-4 overall, while La Verne drops to 15-15 on the season. The Cougars visit Westmont Saturday afternoon for a GSAC doubleheader, the first 2 of 10 remaining games on the conference slate.