LEWISTON, Idaho -- The game of baseball giveth, but it also taketh away. Although the temptation would be to focus on the dream that was taken from Azusa Pacific with a 5-1 defeat to Houston Baptist Tuesday afternoon, it will simply be remembered as a footnote to a record-breaking campaign that got the Cougars back to the NAIA World Series for the first time in 23 years.
A Cougar offense that seemingly scored runs at will for much of the 61-game campaign was simply unable to string together enough hits to mount a serious offensive charge against Houston Baptist starter Jay Prigmore, who scattered 10 hits and struck out 7 Azusa Pacific batters to pick up the complete-game victory. Prigmore carried his shutout into the eighth inning despite allowing Cougar baserunners in all but 1 inning, and the Cougars loaded the bases with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth to bring senior Stephen Vogt to the plate for 1 final at-bat.
With fellow senior Scott Hodsdon waiting on deck, Vogt did what had worked for his entire 4-year career as a Cougar, driving a line drive to the right-center field gap, but centerfielder Ryan Majewski snagged it on the run to end Azusa Pacific’s final rally.
Despite the loss, the legacy of the 2007 Cougar baseball team will begin with the all-out assault on the program’s record books by the senior tandem of Hodsdon and Vogt.
Vogt wrapped up program career records for batting average, hits, doubles, total bases and walks, as well as single-season marks for hits, singles, doubles and times on base.
Hodsdon, meanwhile, put together one of the most remarkable single seasons in Cougar baseball history, shattering program single-season records for home runs, RBIs, runs and total bases. In addition to his offensive prowess, Hodsdon was the undisputed leader of the Azusa Pacific pitching staff, finishing with a 10-1 record and tying the program single-season shutout record with 3 complete-game blankings.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis broke up the shutout with a 2-out solo blast to right-center field, cutting the Houston Baptist lead to 5-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, and the Cougar offense started clicking again in the bottom of the ninth. Stephen Kohatsu singled to right with 1 out, and 2 batters later, Matt Venegas knocked a 2-out single through the right side to keep the Cougars alive. Grant Beyer followed him with a single to left field to load the bases for Vogt, who represented the tying run.
Azusa Pacific starting pitcher Ryan Zaft, victorious in each of his past 4 starts including a win-or-go-home contest with Concordia in the NAIA Region II Playoffs, scattered 5 runs on 9 hits in 5 1/3 innings. Whatever his effort lacked in style points, it did the job as far as keeping the Huskies well within reach of a potent Cougar offense that set program single-season records for hits, runs, doubles and home runs. Christian Gagné entered the game with 1 out in the top of the sixth and retired the 2 batters he faced after the Cougars issued an intentional walk to load the bases. Brad Boekestein fired 3 perfect innings of relief and struck out 3 batters to keep the Cougars within striking distance.
Nieuwenhuis and Kohatsu each finished with 2 hits, and Beyer went 3-for-4 to lead the Cougars’ 10-hit attack. Prigmore paced Houston Baptist’s balanced offensive effort, going 3-for-4 with an RBI.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific ends its season with a program-record 51 wins, finishing with a 51-10 overall record, while Houston Baptist wins its third straight game after an 18-4 first-round defeat to Lindenwood (Mo.). The Huskies, who improve to 43-20, will advance to the next round, where they will face 1 of the other 3 teams remaining at the conclusion of Tuesday’s action.