AZUSA, Calif. -- A 5-run, 7-hit performance isn’t exactly the type of outing that raises eyebrows, but senior lefthander Peter Gehle’s 13 strikeouts without a walk stole the show in Azusa Pacific’s 11-5 win over Cal State San Marcos Wednesday night at the Cougar Baseball Complex.
Cal State scored all 5 of its runs on just 2 swings of the bat off Gehle, but the 6-foot-6 southpaw didn’t give opposing hitters much else to work with as he led the NAIA’s No. 17-ranked Azusa Pacific to its highest single-game strikeout total in at least a decade. Gehle didn’t get to a 3-ball count until the sixth inning, his final frame, and he struck out 10 of the 14 hitters following Josh Miller’s first-inning 3-run home run.
“Our pitchers just try to work down and get ahead, so setting the tone with the first pitch with a strike at the knees is an important part of that,” Gehle said. “Those home runs came on pretty good pitches, so sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the hitters.”
He surrendered a leadoff double followed by Kevin Silvett’s 2-run home run in the sixth inning, but regrouped for a fly out to center and back-to-back swinging strikeouts to wrap up his night.
“It happens sometimes,” Gehle said. “If it was a bad pitch, you work from it, but if it was a good pitch you don’t change anything and 9 times out of 10 it won’t happen again.”
Junior righthander Michael Oeser fanned another 2 San Marcos hitters in 3 innings to earn the save and push the Cougars’ strikeout total to 15 for the game. Azusa Pacific didn’t walk a single batter for the second straight game, running the team’s 3-game season pitching totals to 42 strikeouts and 5 walks although the Cougars’ 18-inning streak without allowing an earned run came to an end with Miller’s first-inning longball.
“(Gehle) gave up 5 runs today, but that second home run is unfortunately an example of what this park gives (offensively) and takes from our pitching staff,” Cougar head coach Paul Svagdis said. “I thought he settled down really nicely after the first-inning home run. The strikeouts are nice, but what I get more excited about is that he didn’t walk anybody.”
Azusa Pacific scored runs in each of the first 2 innings, despite starting both frames with 2 outs and nobody on, and senior first baseman Brice Cutspec tied the game at 3-3 with a leadoff home run down the right-field line in the bottom of the third innings. Cutspec’s blast, his first of 2 in the game, sparked a 4-run inning that featured back-to-back 1-out doubles from senior catcher Chris Feicht and junior centerfielder Josh Leite followed by a 2-run blast off an 0-2 pitch to junior leftfielder Anthony Delgado.
After Cal State San Marcos pulled to within 6-5 with Silvett’s 2-run shot in the sixth, Cutspec blasted a 1-0 offering with no outs in the bottom of the seventh for a 2-run shot to left-center that pushed the lead back to 3 runs at 8-5. Later in the inning, sophomore shortstop Sammy Soyring drew a 4-pitch walk with the bases loaded to plate the third run of the inning. Senior third baseman Ryan Delgado provided the final 11-5 margin with a 2-run shot to left-center with 1 out in the bottom of the eighth inning.
“There are high expectations on our lineup, especially after so many of them had such great seasons last year,” Svagdis said. “I thought they did a good job of not letting the first couple games distract them from having good process at the plate. We all loved Ryan (Delgado)’s home run, but I was more excited about his first-inning RBI single after they intentionally walked Brice. That’s what you have to do in that situation, and that really got our offense kicking.”
Ryan Delgado was 4-for-5 to lead all Azusa Pacific hitters, including that 2-out RBI single that scored junior second baseman Virgil Chavira from second base after Cutspec was intentionally walked with first base open. Chavira went 3-for-5 with a pair of leadoff singles and 3 runs scored, while Cutspec, Feicht and Leite had 2 hits apiece in the Cougars’ 16-hit attack.
Five different hitters struck out at least twice for Cal State San Marcos, which had 2-hit performances from Silvett, Ricardo Moran, and Johnny Omahen.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 3-0 overall heading into this weekend’s scheduled 3-game series at Simpson, which will be followed by 3 non-conference home games next week against La Sierra (Feb. 15) and Bethany (Feb. 17-18). Cal State San Marcos, a fourth-year program that competes as an NAIA independent and opened the 2010 campaign with a 1-1, 12-inning tie with defending Golden State Athletic Conference champion and NAIA Preseason No. 2 Point Loma Nazarene, drops to 4-2-1 on the year.