LA MIRADA, Calif. -- For the second straight season, Biola won the season series with Azusa Pacific, taking 3 of the 4 games between the teams with Saturday’s doubleheader sweep. The Eagles won the opener, 16-10, as the teams combined for 36 hits, and the nightcap went to extra innings tied at 1-1 before Biola finished the sweep with a 2-1 win that came on a bases-loaded hit-batsman in the eighth inning.
Biola exploded for 10 runs in the first 2 innings of the opener, but the Cougars had 10 runs worth of answers to pull to within 14-10 with 3 innings remaining. However, Biola reliever Kyle Atkins defused the Azusa Pacific rally with 3 scoreless innings to close out the win. Atkins finished off Bobby O’Neill’s Game 2 gem with another 1.2 scoreless innings.
Eight consecutive Biola batters reached safely in an 8-run second inning, putting the Eagles in front by a 10-run margin after just 2 innings of the opener. Junior rightfielder Virgil Chavira got Azusa Pacific’s rally going, hitting a 1-out third-inning double before coming around to score the first of 10 Cougar runs over the next 4 innings.
Chavira also hit an RBI double in the Cougars’ 4-run fourth inning, and he led off a 5-run sixth with a single, his third hit of the game. Azusa Pacific put its leadoff man on base in the seventh and eighth innings, but Atkins induced double-play grounders in both frames to preserve Biola’s lead.
After the first games’ offensive display, the nightcap delivered an unexpected pitchers’ duel. Senior righthander Garrett Hodges scattered 4 hits over 3 scoreless innings in his first appearance of the season, leaving the Cougars with a 1-0 lead when he gave way to junior Ruben Diaz in the fourth inning.
Senior first baseman Brice Cutspec led off the second with a double to left off Biola starter Bobby O’Neill, and back-to-back singles from junior centerfielder Josh Leite and freshman designated hitter Jason Plowman brought Cutspec in for the game’s first run and set the Cougars up with a 1-0 lead and 2 runners on base with no outs in the frame. However, O’Neill struck out the next batter he faced before getting out of the jam with consecutive popups.
The Cougars, who hit safely in each of the first 5 innings, had an insurance run within 90 feet of scoring in each of the next 3 innings, but O’Neill’s defense kept Azusa Pacific off the board each time. Biola pulled even when Daniel Bodemer led off the fifth inning with a double that was immediately followed by Armando Arzate’s run-scoring single to center. Freshman Daniel Gonzales chopped a 1-out single up the middle to knock O’Neill out of the game in favor of Atkins, putting the go-ahead run in scoring position with 1 out.
Atkins retired 2 of the next 3 batters, intentionally walking Cutspec with 2 outs to fill first base, and he set the Cougars down in order in the eighth. Garrett Leon led off the bottom of the eighth with a double down the left-field line, and an intentional walk was followed by a sacrifice bunt that put runners on second and third with 1 out. After another intentional walk to set up the force at any base, Diaz was replaced by junior righthander Michael Oeser, whose first live pitch hit Benji Sutherland in the hip to force in the game-winning run.
After the sweep, Azusa Pacific drops to 8-8 overall, 1-7 in GSAC play, while Biola improves to 10-4 overall and 4-3 GSAC with the series win. The Cougars continue conference play with a 4-game series against California Baptist, starting with a pair of mid-week road games in Riverside at 2 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, March 10 and 11, before hosting the Lancers for an 11 a.m. doubleheader in Azusa on Saturday, March 13.