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Cougars Knocked Into Elimination Bracket

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May 26, 2007
Joe Reinsch
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LEWISTON, Idaho -- Top-ranked Azusa Pacific twice lost leads to the red-hot bats of eighth-seeded Lindenwood (Mo.), with the Lions’ 6-run eighth inning providing the final cushion in the Cougars’ 14-9 defeat Saturday night at the 51st Annual NAIA Baseball World Series.

A 12-inning game earlier in the day between St. Thomas (Fla.) and Lee (Tenn.) pushed the 2 remaining games back, and Scott Hodsdon didn’t fire the first pitch until nearly 9 p.m. to start a contest originally scheduled for 7 p.m. Lindenwood, which got its offense warmed up with 18 runs in a win over Houston Baptist (Texas) Friday afternoon, took an early 2-0 lead after single runs in the second and third innings, while the Cougar offense went scoreless until a 5-run outburst in the top of the fifth inning.

Stephen Gillette drilled a line drive off the right-center field wall to lead off the inning with a single. James O’Neill followed it up with another line drive to right-center that went for an RBI triple to kick off the Cougar scoring. Matt Venegas grounded out to second to cash in the run and even the game at 2-2, and Grant Beyer hit the first of 3 straight singles to keep the rally going. Stephen Vogt’s singled up the middle, and Hodsdon drove in Beyer from second with a ground ball single between third base and shortstop to load the bases with 1 out for Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

Nieuwenhuis gave Azusa Pacific its first lead of the game with a long fly ball to left-center field, converting all 3 baserunners into runs to give the Cougars a 5-2 lead. Nieuwenhuis was caught trying to stretch his double into a triple, but the next 2 Cougar batters reached base before Lindenwood finally induced a groundout on the 10th batter of the inning.

Lindenwood came right back with 5 runs in the bottom of the fifth, scoring all 5 on 5 straight base hits, the last one a Travis McConnell 2-run double to left-center that scored Mike Parson and Chris Bielski. With Vogt still awaiting a throw from the outfield that could not have beaten the runner to the plate, Bielski was ejected for making unsportsmanlike contact with Vogt as he passed him in front of the plate. Although the run stood, Lindenwood had to play the final 4 innings without Bielski, who had driven in 7 runs the day before on a double and a pair of home runs against Houston Baptist.

O’Neill kept the Cougar offense rolling with a leadoff double to the left-center field gap, and an unnecessary errant throw on the relay to third sailed into Azusa Pacific’s dugout along the third-base line, resulting in a 2-base error that scored O’Neill to cut Lindenwood’s lead to 7-6. Venegas doubled to the right-center field gap, then scored the tying run on Vogt’s double to the opposite gap in left-center that knocked Lindenwood starter Jon Story from the game. Hodsdon reached on an error that brought Rod Wilson around from second base for the go-ahead score, and Brice Cutspec made it a 2-run lead at 9-7 with an RBI single up the middle.

Zach Pettikas tossed a scoreless sixth inning and gave up a single run in the seventh before the Lindenwood offense got rolling once again in the bottom of the eighth inning. Timmy Hall led off with a sharply-hit 3-hopper to Cutspec at first, but the ball took a nasty hop on Cutspec and bounced safely behind first base for a leadoff double. Chris Getz singled to right to give Lindenwood runners on first and third with 1 out, and a wild pitch allowed Hall to score from third to tie the game at 9-9. The next batter, Marty Clements, doubled to left-center to give the Lions the lead for good at 10-9. After Pettikas struck out Parson for the second out, Corey Hill hit a slicing line drive down the right field line that scored Clements for an 11-9 advantage.

Garrett Lebsock replaced Pettikas to face the right-handed McConnell, but the Lindenwood catcher drew a hit-batsman as Lebsock tried to work the inside part of the plate, and Ryan Kopp blew the game open with a 3-run home run to right-center field. Lindenwood’s right-handed closer David Fields had success with his deliberate sidearm delivery, retiring the final 4 Cougars batters to earn the win.

Each of the first 8 Cougar starters hit safely as Azusa Pacific matched Lindenwood’s 16-hit barrage, with Nieuwenhuis and Eddie Crespo leading the way with 3 hits apiece. Vogt added a pair of hits and 2 walks, and O’Neill was 2-for-2 with his second and third extra-base hits of the season, scoring a pair of runs and driving in another for the Cougars.

With the loss, Azusa Pacific suffered consecutive defeats for the first time this season and dropped to 50-9 overall, while Lindenwood remained perfect in the tournament at 2-0 and improved to 47-18 on the season. The Cougars return to action in an elimination game against sixth-seeded Lee (Tenn.) Monday at noon.

Live video coverage of the game is available through a partnership between the NAIA and XOS Technologies, which streams exclusive live video and audio of the 51st Annual Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series via the Internet. The NAIA and XOS will feature all tournament games through, a sports broadband video channel developed by XOS Technologies for the NAIA. The All-Tournament Pass is $23.95 and any single game may be purchased for $6.95.

The full bracket for the 2007 Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series is available through this link, and full tournament information will be available through the official NAIA World Series information page at