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Cougars Heat Up In A Hurry

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May 6, 2008
Joe Reinsch
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AZUSA, Calif. -- Senior righthander Andrew Shive gave defending NAIA Region II champion Azusa Pacific exactly the kind of start it needed to open its title defense with a 13-3 8-inning victory over sixth-seeded Concordia in Tuesday’s opening round of the Region II Baseball Playoffs.

Shive scattered 3 runs on 7 hits and struck out 6, and fellow senior Stephen Kohatsu lined home runs over the left field fence in each of the first 2 innings to lead the Cougars’ 13-run, 17-hit attack that brought the contest to its early 10-run rule conclusion.

Azusa Pacific, the tournament’s top seed, advances to a 2:15 p.m. matchup Wednesday with the loser of tonight’s contest between third-seeded Biola and fourth-seeded Point Loma Nazarene. Concordia, the sixth seed, heads into an elimination contest with the loser of this afternoon’s matchup of second-seeded Fresno Pacific and fifth-seeded California Baptist.

Shive surrendered solo home runs in each of the first 2 innings, but the Cougars responded both times. In the bottom of the first inning, senior second baseman Grant Beyer worked a 2-2 count out of Concordia All-GSAC lefthander Enrique Lechuga, then looped a 1-out double just over the glove of third baseman Matt Ross down the left-field line. The next batter, Kohatsu, ran the count full before drilling a 2-run home run that gave Azusa Pacific a 2-1 first-inning lead.

Concordia’s Brian Hendrickson cleared the fence in right for a game-tying solo home run to lead off the top of the second for the Eagles, and Aric Weinberg followed by reaching on a third-strike passed ball. Undaunted, Shive allowed a sacrifice bunt that moved Weinberg to second before registering back-to-back groundouts to get out of the inning.

Senior rightfielder Drew Evans smashed another full-count offering from Lechuga for a leadoff home run in the bottom of the second for a 3-2 lead. Senior shortstop reached on a 1-out, 1-hop grounder that was misplayed by first baseman Nick Fuentes, and Beyer was hit by an 0-2 pitch to put runners on first and second for Kohatsu. The senior catcher answered with his second round-tripper in as many at-bats, pushing Azusa Pacific’s early margin to 6-2.

Shive took care of the rest, retiring 18 of the 20 batters he faced through the end of the seventh inning, with the Cougar bats tacking on single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to push the lead to 9-2. After giving up consecutive singles to lead off the top of the eighth, Shive struck out his sixth batter of the game before giving way to junior righthander Christian Gagne, who gave up a run-scoring single to Cody Kissell before striking out Ross and Nathan Dean to close out the frame.

With the 10-run rule in effect after 7 innings in the NAIA Region II Playoffs first round, Azusa Pacific brought the game to an end with 4 runs on 2 hits, 2 walks and a pair of Eagle errors, including the 2-run miscue on Venegas’ chopper to third that scored junior Chris Cooper from third and Evans from second base for the final 13-3 margin.

Kohatsu finished the game 3-for-5 with a game-high 5 RBIs, and 6 others tallied 2 hits apiece for the Cougars, who improve to 42-8 on the season. Kissell was 3-for-4 with a solo home run to lead the way for Concordia, which drops to 21-20 overall.