AZUSA, Calif. -- Innocuous as each may have seemed, both of Azusa Pacific’s errors in Thursday’s 6-4 loss to Biola had a huge impact on the result. Both miscues led to unearned runs that helped seal the Cougars’ fate in a loss that dropped Azusa Pacific to 1-5 through the first 6 games of Golden State Athletic Conference play.
With runners on first and third with 2 outs in the top of the sixth, Cougar righthander Ian Kelly got Armando Arzate to swing and miss on a 2-2 breaking ball in the dirt, but the ball took a high carom off the plate to allow Arzate to reach base on the strikeout and wild pitch. The runner on third scored easily, giving Biola a 4-2 lead, but Phil Blazek scored from first base when Kelly’s late throw to first sailed wide of the bag into foul territory behind first base.
Freshman second baseman Ryan Henley’s 1-out, bases-loaded single in the bottom of the eighth scored a pair to pull the Cougars to within 5-4, but Biola reliever Kyle Atkins got out of the jam with a strikeout and an inning-ending groundout to preserve the Eagles’ 1-run lead.
With the middle of the Azusa Pacific lineup due to bat in the bottom of the ninth needing just 1 run to tie, Henley misplayed leadoff pinch-hitter Michael Andrews’ 2-hopper to second. The error led to another unearned run when Garrett Leon doubled to left with 1 out, pushing Biola’s lead to the final 6-4 margin. Atkins induced 3 infield groundouts in the bottom of the ninth, picking up Biola’s first save of the year.
Junior second baseman Virgil Chavira consistently set the table for the heart of the Cougar lineup for the second straight game, going 4-for-4 in his second game in the leadoff role. However, the 3 hitters behind him went hitless in a combined 13 at-bats, and Azusa Pacific left 10 runners on base, not including the pair of runners erased by inning-ending double plays turned by Biola in the fifth and seventh innings.
Kelly struck out 7 and walked just 1 in 6 innings, and junior reliever Michael Oeser struck out 3 more with no walks in 3 innings of work. Biola starter Alex Brueske picked up the win in his first career start for the Eagles, scattering 2 runs on 8 hits in 6.1 innings. Atkins picked up the save despite surrendering 2 runs on 2 hits and 3 walks in 2.2 innings.
The teams traded second-inning 2-run home runs, with Daniel Bodemer’s 2-out shot giving the Eagles a 2-0 advantage before freshman designated hitter Jason Plowman answered with game-tying 1-out shot to left center. After 2 more scoreless innings, Bodemer led off the fifth inning with a single to right, setting up Garrett Leon’s 1-out single through the left side that scored Bodemer’s courtesy runner, Phil Blazek, from third base. The Eagles led the rest of the way, tallying 2 more on the third-strike wild pitch in the sixth along with the ninth-inning insurance run.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific drops to 8-6 overall, 1-5 GSAC, while Biola improves to 8-4 overall and 2-3 in GSAC play following the split of midweek games in Azusa. The 4-game series concludes with Saturday’s 11 a.m. doubleheader at Biola.