AZUSA, Calif. -- A doubleheader split against San Diego Christian actually caused Azusa Pacific to fall farther behind in the race for a Golden State Athletic Conference postseason tournament berth, but a second-game win snapped a modest 3-game losing streak and kept the Cougars in eighth place in the conference standings with 10 league games remaining.
After suffering a 16-6 defeat in the opener, just the second victory ever for fourth-year program San Diego Christian over Azusa Pacific, the Cougars rallied from a 5-0 deficit with 8 straight runs and held on for an 8-6 win in the nightcap to save the doubleheader split.
The Cougar pitching staff was roughed up for 16 runs on 18 hits in the first game, and San Diego Christian jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first 3 innings off Game 2 starter Michael Oeser. That’s when sophomore lefthander Tim Lu took over, keeping the Hawks offense in check by retiring 12 of the 14 batters he faced in 4 shutout innings of relief work. Lu, whose 11 appearances entering Thursday’s action consisted of just 2 outings lasting more than 1 inning, struck out 4 and allowed just 1 runner to reach second base in his 4-inning effort.
While Lu was busy quieting the San Diego Christian offense, the Cougars got right back into the game with senior third baseman Ryan Delgado’s 2-run fourth-inning home run. In the fourth inning, Azusa Pacific added 2 more to pull within a run at 5-4, and the Cougars used a 4-run seventh inning off tiring San Diego Christian starter Ranulfo Grijalva to take its first lead of the day at 8-5.
Senior righthander Ryan Rosenhahn registered the save, his second of the year, with 2 innings in relief of Lu’s standout performance. Rosenhahn recorded 5 outs in the first 5 batters he faced before surrendering 3 straight singles for a run that trimmed the lead to 8-6 before finishing things off with an 0-1 offering that resulted in a game-ending popup.
Senior first baseman Brice Cutspec led the Cougar offense on the day, going 5-for-8 on the day and registering multiple hits in each game. More importantly, Cutspec delivered his hits when Azusa Pacific needed it the most, with runners on base. All 5 of his hits came with runners on base, including 3 2-out hits. In the first game, Cutspec ended San Diego Christian’s shutout bid with a 2-run single with 1 out in the sixth inning, and 2 innings later he smashed a 2-run home run with 2 outs in the eighth. The 2-run shot came less than a week after he set the NAIA career home run record, pushing his career-record 4-year total to 74.
In the nightcap, the Hawks intentionally walked Delgado with a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning to put runners on first and second with 1 out for Cutspec. The senior first baseman delivered another base hit to right, loading the bases for senior designated hitter Chris Feicht’s sacrifice fly that cut San Diego Christian’s lead to 5-4. An inning later, Cutspec delivered the game-winning RBI in the bottom of the seventh with a 2-out single up the middle that pushed the lead to 7-5. Feicht followed with another RBI single to give the Cougars an 8-5 lead.
San Diego Christian won the opening game with a 16-run, 18-hit offensive outburst, and senior righthander China McCarney notched the complete-game win with an 8-strikeout performance. Ryan Inverso led the Hawks with a 4-for-4 effort at the plate, and Gus Hernandez and Ruben Hinojosa each added 3-run home runs. Inverso was San Diego Christian’s only hitter with multiple hits in the second game, and another Hinojosa home run, a third-inning solo shot, pushed the Hawks’ lead to 5-0.
With the split, Azusa Pacific is now 15-23 overall, 8-18 in GSAC play. The Cougars are now 4 games behind sixth-place The Master’s, which posted its second straight 4-3 road win over Point Loma Nazarene Thursday afternoon. San Diego Christian, now 7-27 overall, remains 1 game behind Azusa Pacific with a 7-19 GSAC mark.
The Cougars wrap up the 4-game conference series with San Diego Christian with a Saturday visit to Stars Field in Lakeside, Calif., for a noon doubleheader.