AZUSA, Calif. -- Christian Gagné tossed a complete-game 4-hit shutout to cap a run of 12 consecutive scoreless innings by the Azusa Pacific pitching staff in an 8-2, 9-0 doubleheader sweep over San Diego Christian Saturday afternoon.
A brief rainshower shortly following the conclusion of the Cougars’ 8-2 opening-game victory threatened to wash out the nightcap, but the precipitation cleared off for a couple of hours, just enough time for Gagné to fire his first career complete-game and his first career shutout. The junior righthander struck out 4 batters and walked 1, and a pair of inning-ending double plays in the fourth and sixth innings helped preserve the shutout.
In the first inning of the nightcap, Gagné made up for his own mishandling of David Maddox’s push bunt that helped put runners on second and third with 1 out, striking out the next 2 batters to end the threat. He then retired 6 straight batters from the second through fourth innings until Clint Preisendorfer’s double in the fourth inning gave the Hawks a runner in scoring position with 1 out. Junior left fielder Chris Cooper snagged Garrett Lingle’s dipping line drive to shallow left field, then came up firing to double up Preisendorfer at second base and end the inning.
A walk, a base-hit and an error on an infield grounder loaded the bases with 1 out in the top of the sixth inning for San Diego Christian, but the Cougar defense rolled up another pair to preserve the shutout. Sophomore first baseman Brice Cutspec fielded Preisendorfer’s grounder to first, and his throw to second found a way around the back of Sean West into the glove of senior shortstop Matt Venegas, whose double-play turn led Gagné perfectly in stride to edge Preisendorfer across first base. Gagné retired the Hawks in order in the seventh to complete the shutout.
The NAIA’s No. 2-ranked Cougars batted around in the opening inning of each game of the doubleheader, and the Azusa Pacific hurlers took care of the rest, scattering 17 San Diego Christian hits for just 2 runs on the day. Game 1 starter Garrett Hodges gave up single runs in the third and fourth innings of the opener, but then held the Hawks to just 3 more hits in the next 2.2 innings before giving way to Cougar relievers Zach Pettikas and Ben Jones, who combined for 2.1 scoreless innings of relief to help preserve the opening-game victory.
Azusa Pacific sent 11 batters to the plate in the bottom of the first of the opener, scoring 7 runs on just 3 hits in the frame, thanks to a walk, an error and 3 hit-batsmen that preceded a bases-loaded 3-run double from Venegas in his second at-bat of the inning. San Diego Christian starter Garrett Lingle gave up just 1 hit after the 7-run first-inning outburst, a fourth-inning solo home run for junior center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and he and Preisendorfer combined to retire the final 13 Cougar batters in a row.
Junior left fielder Drew Evans and senior second baseman Grant Beyer each drove in 2 runs with back-to-back singles, the first of 4 straight base-hits for an Azusa Pacific offense that sent 10 batters to the plate in the first inning of the nightcap. The Cougars added a pair in the third inning on Derrick Keeton’s 2-out, 2-run home run to right-center in the third inning off San Diego Christian starter Lance Janke, who was ejected along with head coach Pat Horvath after he planted his very next pitch squarely into Venegas’ back.
Keeton’s sixth-inning leadoff double down the right-field line set up a 3-run inning that provided the final 9-0 margin. Senior designated hitter Stephen Kohatsu’s bases-loaded fly ball was caught at the left-field fence by Kenoli Fonseca for a sacrifice fly that pushed the lead to 7-0. Cutspec hit an RBI single to right, and Evans doubled to left to score 1 more.
Keeton was 3-for-3 in the nightcap, and Evans was 2-for-4 with 3 RBIs to lead the Cougars’ 12-hit attack.
With the sweep, Azusa Pacific improves to 12-1 overall, 6-1 GSAC, while San Diego Christian suffers its fifth straight loss to drop to 6-6 overall, 2-6 GSAC. The Cougars host a pair of non-league games on Tuesday against La Verne and Friday against La Sierra, sandwiching Wednesday’s single GSAC game at Fresno Pacific before hosting Vanguard in another conference doubleheader next Saturday, March 1, at 11 a.m.