AZUSA, Calif. -- “This is definitely the best week of my life,” said Stephen Vogt after the NAIA’s No. 2-ranked Azusa Pacific posted a dramatic 14-13 come-from-behind victory over Concordia to extend its program-record winning streak to 23 games.
Vogt, who asked for his girlfriend’s hand in marriage Tuesday night, knocked a career-high 4 extra-base hits including his first career grand slam in Wednesday’s 10-2 win, found room for a couple more career firsts Thursday evening. Vogt slammed his first career walk-off home run, a solo shot to right with a full count and 1 out in the bottom of the 10th inning, his second home run of the game. The multi-homer game also marked a career first for the 3-time NAIA All-American.
“I had the best moment of my life Tuesday night, and then these last 2 days have been awesome,” said Vogt, the Cougars’ career leader in batting average, hits, doubles and RBIs. “All I can say is ‘wow.’ You make a decision like Tuesday night that feels so good, and this is just icing on the cake. I’m speechless. I’m going to enjoy this until Saturday, and when Saturday comes, I’m going to forget about it.”
Vogt had hit safely in 7 straight at-bats entering tonight’s contest, but his first-inning flyout ended that streak. With his 3-for-5 effort that included a walk, Vogt has now reached base safely in 12 of his past 14 plate appearances. As a result, Vogt raised his season batting average to .491, which includes a .516 clip in GSAC games.
Concordia jumped out to an early 8-0 lead through 2 and a half innings, knocking a combined 9 hits in a pair of 4-run innings in the second and third, but Azusa Pacific batted around in the bottom of the third to storm back to within 2 with a 6-run inning. Stephen Gillette led off the frame with a double down the left field line, and he eventually scored when a wild pickoff throw to first skipped away from the bag to cut Concordia’s lead to 8-1. With runners on first and second after Grant Beyer’s RBI single, Vogt drew a 1-out walk to load the bases for Scott Hodsdon.
Hodsdon drilled a 2-0 pitch well over the left-center field fence for his second grand slam of the season, cutting the Eagles’ lead to 8-6, and 2 innings later, the senior tandem of Vogt and Hodsdon was at it again. Vogt led off the inning with a towering shot that landed in the eastbound lanes of Alosta Avenue over the right field wall.
“I was just looking for something hard to hit, and I just saw it and reacted,” said Vogt. “I had a real short swing, and it just felt good.”
Hodsdon followed it up with an infield single, promptly stole second and advanced to third when the throw to second sailed into center field. Kirk Nieuwenhuis grounded out to second to bring Hodsdon home, tying the game at 8-8.
“That was just a crazy game with a lot of different things going on, but it was a lot of fun and I was just glad to be a part of it,” said Hodsdon, who was waiting in the on-deck circle when Vogt ended the game. “I threw my hands up right away. I knew it was gone. He put a great swing on it, and it was just a laser. I was so happy for him.”
After 2 more 2-run innings for Azusa Pacific in the sixth and seventh innings, the Cougars took a 12-9 lead into the eighth inning, only to watch Concordia rally for 3 runs on a pair of hits and 2 Cougar errors. Nick Fuentes’ ninth-inning RBI single up the middle gave Concordia a 13-12 lead, but Brice Cutspec reached to lead off the bottom of the ninth on a swinging strike three in the dirt that skipped to the backstop for a wild pitch.
Cutspec was replaced at first by Azusa Pacific relief pitcher Ben Jones, who advanced into scoring position on James O’Neill’s perfect sacrifice bunt down the first base line. After a groundout to shortstop that kept Jones at second, Johnny Soberal knocked a single into left field, and Jones flew around third to score the tying run and send the game to extra innings tied at 13-13.
Christian Gagné surrendered a 1-out single in the top of the 10th, then found himself with runners on first and second with 1 out after Azusa Pacific’s fourth error of the game. However, Gagné kept his composure, striking out Beau Poteet before inducing an inning-ending groundout and set up Vogt’s game-winning heroics.
“We had some clutch performances off the bench today,” said Cougar head coach Paul Svagdis. “Ben Jones, a pitcher, running for us and scoring the tying run to send it to extra innings, Johnny Soberal re-rentering the game to give us some defense and then he gets the big hit, James O’Neill coming in and bunting – hopefully it continues to build confidence in our whole team, because tonight’s win was a team effort. I was really excited to see Gagné pitch some really competitive, tight innings, and he pitched his tail off.”
Vogt and Hodsdon paced the Cougars’ 14-hit attack, collecting 3 hits apiece, while Concordia’s Keoni Ruth and Poteet also collected 3 hits for the Eagles’ 18-hit evening.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 43-4 overall, 31-3 in GSAC play, extending the Cougars’ conference win streak to 20 games. Concordia drops to 28-15 on the season and 20-14 in conference play. The loss kept the Eagles in fourth place in the GSAC standings, now 2 games behind second-place California Baptist and 1 game back of third-place Point Loma Nazarene. Azusa Pacific wraps up the regular season when it visits California Baptist in a season-ending doubleheader on Saturday, April 28.
CSTV.com’s Matt Meyers and Evan Markfield were in attendance for the game, and they chronicled their experience on the CSTV.com “Going Yard” blog. Stephen Vogt and Ben Jones appeared in a video clip posted on the blog. Click here for their April 26 entry, which chronicled their first visit to an NAIA baseball program.