AZUSA, Calif. -- Sophomore designated hitter Brice Cutspec and senior catcher Stephen Kohatsu smacked back-to-back home runs to cap a 9-run third inning, as the NAIA’s No. 2-ranked Azusa Pacific cruised to a 15-2 win over Cal State L.A. Tuesday afternoon.
For the second consecutive day, the Cougars sent 11 batters to the plate in a single inning, with Kohatsu, junior left fielder Stephen Gillette and junior center fielder Drew Evans stringing together 3 straight singles to load the bases with 1 out with Azusa Pacific leading 3-2.
Senior first baseman Derrick Keeton drove in the first run of the inning on a grounder to first base, and senior second baseman Galen Komo’s full-count single up the middle scored 2 more to make it 6-2. Komo got caught off first base, but advanced to second when Keeton was put out in a rundown between second and third before junior third baseman Shaun Lane and senior shortstop Matt Venegas drew back-to-back walks to load the bases a second time.
Junior right fielder Chris Cooper singled through the left side to score the fourth and fifth runs of the inning for an 8-2 lead, bringing Cutspec to the plate with 2 runners aboard. His line drive down the right field line stayed fair and cleared the bases, and Kohatsu drove Ryan Plum’s 1-1 offering over the left field fence to give the Cougars a 12-2 lead after just 3 innings of play.
The score held for the next 4 innings, until Kohatsu and Gillette drew back-to-back 2-out walks to set up Evans’ 3-run shot to left field that rounded out the scoring.
Cal State L.A. took the early lead on Tyler Warmerdam’s 1-out, 2-run home run to left field, but Azusa Pacific needed just 2 batters to even the score in its half of the first inning. Venegas doubled down the left field line to lead off the bottom of the first, and Cooper slammed a game-tying 2-run shot down the left field line on the first pitch he saw. Lane’s RBI groundout in the bottom of the second gave the Cougars a 3-2 lead before the third-inning explosion.
Azusa Pacific starter Matt Stone retired 17 of the next 19 batters he faced after surrendering the first-inning home run, surrendering a pair of infield singles to Golden Eagles second baseman Joe Park before giving way to the Cougar bullpen. Stone struck out 6 batters in 6 innings of work to pick up the victory, his first of the season.
Kohatsu reached base safely in all 5 of his plate appearances, going 3-for-3 with 2 walks to raise his team-leading batting average to .586 (17-for-29) for the season. Cooper was 2-for-4 with 4 RBIs, and Evans drove in 3 runs with a 2-for-5 effort.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 7-1 as it resumes Golden State Athletic Conference play with a Wednesday afternoon home game at 2 p.m. against The Master’s, which is off to its best start in program history with an 8-0-1 record. Cal State L.A. drops to 4-5. Today’s victory was Azusa Pacific’s fourth straight against Cal State L.A., and it is the first-ever 4-game winning streak in a series that began in 1969 and has featured 32 meetings between the teams.