IRVINE, Calif. -- Eight days ago, Azusa Pacific sat dead last in the Golden State Athletic Conference standings, but the Cougars have returned with a vengeance, climbing 3 spots and winning 5 of 6 games in just over a week after splitting Saturday’s road doubleheader at Concordia. Azusa Pacific committed 6 errors in a 10-6 loss in the opener, but a pair of seniors led the Cougars to a 3-1 win in the nightcap for the split.
Senior catcher Ryan Delgado homered in consecutive at-bats, the only 2 hits that left the yard on the day, and senior righthander Garrett Hodges dealt a 7-inning complete-game 4-hitter for the win.
The Saturday split gives Azusa Pacific its first GSAC series victory of the season, and the Cougars are now 12-15 overall and tied for seventh with The Master’s College with a 5-14 GSAC record. Concordia is just a game ahead in sixth place, and the Eagles’ record now stands at 16-14 overall and 7-13 GSAC.
After 3 scoreless innings to start the nightcap, Delgado hit a first-pitch leadoff home run to left-center to start the fourth inning, and the Cougars got another run in the fifth when freshman leftfielder Trevor Lothrop’s leadoff double was converted into a 2-0 lead by junior rightfielder Virgil Chavira’s 2-out single through the left side.
Concordia cut the lead to 2-1 in the fifth on Josh Konicek’s 2-out single, but Delgado welcomed Concordia reliever Blake Harrison to the game with an opposite-field solo shot, again on the first pitch of a leadoff at-bat. Hodges gave up singles in each of the final 2 innings, but Kyle Konicek was gunned down at second base trying to stretch his sixth-inning leadoff single into an extra-base hit and Edgar Guillen was stranded at second base after his 1-out single in the bottom of the seventh.
Azusa Pacific got out to an early lead in the opener, plating a pair of runs after 3 consecutive hits that included Delgado’s run-scoring double. Concordia answered with a single run in the first, then tallied 2 more on Kyle Konicek’s 2-out single in the third inning. With the bases full of Eagles with 1 out in the fourth inning, Matt Ivanoff hit a bases-clearing triple, and John Hill brought him with a second straight triple that pushed the Concordia lead to 8-2.
The Cougars scored 4 runs over the next 4 innings, with senior first baseman Brice Cutspec delivering a fifth-inning RBI single, the third consecutive 2-out hit in the frame. Freshman Daniel Gonzales drove in another with a pinch-hit triple with no outs in the seventh, although he was stranded there by Azusa Pacific’s No. 1, 2 and 3 hitters. The Cougars loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth, and Lothrop cashed in a pair of them with a 2-run single up the middle. However, Josh White came on to retire 5 of the final 6 batters for the save, his first of the year.
The next week features a break from conference play, and Azusa Pacific will visit NAIA World Series host Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) College for a 3-day, 4-game non-conference series from March 31 through April 2. After taking on the Los Angeles Angels’ Class A Advanced California League affiliate, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, for an April 6 exhibition contest, the Cougars will return to GSAC play with a 4-game set against Fresno Pacific April 7-10.