AZUSA, Calif. -- After winning 46 of 51 games, the NAIA’s No. 2-ranked Azusa Pacific fell into the precarious elimination bracket of the NAIA Region II Baseball Playoffs after an 11-4 defeat to the defending regional tournament champion Concordia, which held the Cougars scoreless for 7 innings before Scott Hodsdon’s eighth-inning solo shot tied the Azusa Pacific single-season home run record with 22 and sparked a 4-run rally.
The Cougars drop to 2-1 in the double-elimination tournament, and they will face Biola in the final game of the evening in another elimination game. Tonight’s winner will advance to tomorrow’s NAIA Region II Championship against Concordia.
In the top of the third inning, Concordia drew first blood with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly from Brandon Kawal, although Kirk Nieuwenhuis nearly gunned down Nick Fuentes at the plate when Fuentes slid past home plate without touching it. However, Nieuwenhuis’ near-perfect throw just pulled Stephen Vogt far enough to the third base side of the plate that Fuentes was able to crawl back and slap a hand on the plate before Vogt could apply the tag, and Concordia had a 1-0 lead. Matt Ross worked to a 1-1 count before launching a 3-run home run to left that gave the Eagles a 4-0 lead.
It was the first of a pair of home runs for Ross, who finished the game 3-for-5 with 6 RBIs. The Eagles added 3 unearned runs in the fourth, and Ross capped another 4-run frame in the top of the sixth with another 3-run shot to left, giving Concordia a commanding 11-0 advantage.
Hodsdon led off the bottom of the eighth with a solo shot to right center, tying Steve Esquibel’s single-season home run mark of 22 set in 1997. More importantly, it snapped Concordia’s shutout and sparked a rally in which the Cougars sent 10 batters to the plate. Nieuwenhuis followed Hodsdon’s blast with a double to left center, and Brice Cutspec drew a walk. After a force out at second, Johnny Soberal walked to load the bases and Eddie Crespo was hit with a 2-2 pitch to force in a run. Just seconds after Concordia left fielder Brandon Kawal took a couple steps in to a shallower position in left, Matt Venegas doubled over Kawal’s head in left to score a pair and cut the lead to 11-4. However, Donnie Boyett struck out Grant Beyer, walked Vogt and induced an inning-ending popup from Hodsdon to end the rally.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific drops to 46-6 on the season, while Concordia improves to 31-17 as it awaits tomorrow’s NAIA Region II Baseball Playoff championship.
Team tournament statistics, updated schedules and game box scores are available at the NAIA Region II Baseball Playoffs Tournament Central page located under the Region II portion of the NAIA’s official website, www.naia.org.