COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Vanguard senior lefthander Brandon Godfrey stifled an Azusa Pacific offense that entered Wednesday’s Golden State Athletic Conference opener averaging 13 runs and 14 hits per game, tossing 6 strong innings of 2-hit ball to lead the Lions to a 6-0 shutout over the NAIA’s No. 17-ranked Cougars in Costa Mesa.
After Vanguard’s Adrian Mendoza and Robert Purpura retired 9 straight batters over the final 3 innings, Vanguard had held Azusa Pacific to its lowest hit total in a 9-inning game in 17 years, and the Cougars have now dropped GSAC openers in 3 consecutive seasons.
Senior third baseman Ryan Delgado hit a 2-out single to right in the top of the first inning, and Godfrey loaded the bases on a hit-batsman and a walk before inducing an inning-ending groundout to escape the jam. An inning later, junior leftfielder Anthony Delgadoled off with a single up the middle, but Godfrey struck out the next batter and got 2 outs with 1 swing on a line-out double play to first base. Godfrey retired 14 of the final 17 Cougars he faced.
Azusa Pacific’s best chance to score came in the top of the sixth, when the first 2 batters both reached on error to put runners on second and third with no outs with cleanup hitter Brice Cutspec at the plate with a chance to cut into Vanguard’s 4-0 lead. However, the heart of the Cougar lineup stranded them both, failing to get the ball out of the infield. Cutspec struck out swinging, No. 5 hitter Chris Feicht lined out to shortstop, and Josh Leite popped out to third base to end the inning, the first of 12 straight Cougars retired over the final 4 innings.
Vanguard scored in the top of the first on Eric Krzysiak’s 2-out triple, and Tyson Leighton’s 3-run home run in the bottom of the fourth pushed the lead to 4-0. William Hamilton led off the bottom of the sixth with a solo shot down the right field line, and the Lions completed the scoring in the bottom of the eighth when left-handed reliever Tim Lu hit the first batter he faced after entering a bases-loaded, 2-out jam.
Azusa Pacific entered Wednesday’s conference opener with the GSAC’s top offense, batting .381 as a team in 8 games of non-conference action. Vanguard’s offense, led by Zachary and Tyson Leighton’s 2-hit performances, put 4 of its 8 leadoff hitters on base and was 3-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Cougar batters were 0-for-9 with runners on base, going hitless in 5 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific drops to 7-2 overall and 0-1 GSAC, while Vanguard improves to 9-1 overall, 1-0 GSAC after the first game of the GSAC-opening 4-game series between the teams. The teams play another 2 p.m. contest on Thursday, Feb. 25, before closing out the set with an 11 a.m. doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 27, in Azusa.