AZUSA, Calif. -- The NAIA’s No. 2-ranked Azusa Pacific’s 13-game winning streak, along with the program’s best-ever 1-loss start to a season, came to an end in an 8-2 road loss at No. 23-ranked Fresno Pacific Thursday afternoon. A year ago, it was the same Sunbirds program that ended the Cougars’ program-record season-opening 10-game win streak.
In addition, it was the first collegiate loss for junior lefthander Jonny Bravo, who had never previously taken a loss in 20 career starts for Azusa Pacific.
Four straight Fresno Pacific batters reached safely in the bottom of the second inning, and Sunbirds leadoff man Anthony Lowell’s 1-out, 2-run single down the left field line capped a 4-run inning for a 4-1 lead. Sophomore first baseman Brice Cutspec cut the lead to 4-2 with a 2-out solo home run, his eighth of the season, in the top of the third.
The Cougars managed just 3 more hits over the final 6 innings off Fresno Pacific starter Antone Ontiveros, despite putting the ball in play 34 times in 36 trips to the plate. Ontiveros retired 9 straight batters after Cutspec’s solo shot before giving up back-to-back 2-out singles in the sixth inning. He then retired the next 6 before another 2-out single in the eighth.
The Sunbirds added 2 runs each in the fourth and seventh innings to wrap up the scoring. Left fielder Justin Keeney was 2-for-4 with a second-inning leadoff double that got the 4-run outburst rolling, as well as a 2-run home run with 1 out in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Senior shortstop Matt Venegas and Cutspec each went 2-for-4 for Azusa Pacific. Venegas led off the game with a base hit, but he was picked off with junior left fielder Chris Cooper at the plate. Despite consecutive base hits from Cooper and No. 3 hitter Kirk Nieuwenhuis, the Cougars were unable to convert them into runs, as Ontiveros induced a popup and a fielder’s choice grounder to end the threat.
A 2-out error by Fresno Pacific third baseman Joey Norwood in the top of the second put senior second baseman Grant Beyer on base to extend the frame. The Cougars took advantage of the extension, using back-to-back singles to score Beyer for an early 1-0 lead.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific drops to 17-2 overall, 9-2 GSAC, while Fresno Pacific improves to 11-4 overall, 7-2 GSAC. The Cougars continue conference play with a Saturday visit to Westmont for an 11 a.m. doubleheader.