LAKESIDE, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific’s uphill road to the playoffs got a little steeper with Saturday’s doubleheader split at San Diego Christian, keeping the Cougars 3 games out of sixth place in the Golden State Athletic Conference after Maxime Ouelette’s walkoff grand slam home run off senior righthander Garrett Hodges lifted the Hawks to a 6-3 nightcap victory.
Ouelette’s slam to center field saved a split for San Diego Christian after Azusa Pacific exploded for 15 runs on 18 hits in a 15-5 first-game victory. The Cougars, now 16-24 overall and 9-19 GSAC, remained 3 games behind the sixth-place tie between Concordia, which split a doubleheader at Westmont, and The Master’s, which was swept Saturday by Point Loma Nazarene, with 8 GSAC games remaining in the season.
Azusa Pacific jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the opener, thanks mostly to a 6-run second inning in which the first 7 Cougar batters reached base safely. Junior centerfielder Josh Leite and senior rightfielder Chris Cooper hit back-to-back run-scoring doubles, with Cooper’s 2-bagger scoring a pair. A San Diego Christian error and a walk loaded the bases for freshman leftfielder Trevor Lothrop, whose infield single pushed the score to 4-0 with no outs in the second. Freshman second baseman Ryan Henley hit a sacrifice fly to right to score courtesy runner Carlos Maddox, and senior third baseman Ryan Delgado’s single through the left side scored sophomore shortstop Sammy Soyring to finish off the 6-run frame.
Delgado hit a solo home run to right-center to lead off the fourth inning, pushing the lead to 9-0 for senior righthander Ian Kelly. Kelly surrendered just 1 hit through 4 scoreless innings before San Diego Christian posted a 4-run, 4-hit fifth to pull to within 9-4. However, Kelly turned in another hitless sixth before giving way to sophomore southpaw Tim Lu, who handled the Hawks lineup for the second time this week. Lu, who fired 4 scoreless innings of 2-hit relief in Thursday’s 8-6 win, retired the first 6 batters he faced in a 3-inning effort for his first save of the year.
The Cougars tallied 3 straight extra-base hits with 1 out in the eighth inning, pushing 3 runs across after freshman Daniel Gonzales followed back-to-back doubles by Soyring and Lothrop with a 2-run blast to right-center that gave the Cougars a 12-4 lead. In the ninth, freshman Jason Plowmanand Maddox hit back-to-back doubles to left to spark another 3-run frame that wrapped up the Cougars’ 15-run production.
In the nightcap, Delgado hit his second home run of the afternoon, a solo shot with 2 outs in the top of the first that gave Azusa Pacific the early 1-run advantage. From there, the Cougars went hitless for 3 straight innings, and San Diego Christian took a 2-1 lead with single runs in the second and fourth innings off Game 2 starter Hodges.
Senior designated hitter Chris Feicht led off the fifth with a single to center, Azusa Pacific’s first hit since Delgado’s first-inning blast, and Leite singled to left with 1 out to put runners at first and second. However, San Diego Christian starter Joey Schumer escaped with no further damage after a groundout and fly to left ended the threat.
The Cougars did cash in on a pair of sixth-inning singles, with senior first baseman Brice Cutspec’s cashing in on the first-and-third situation with a sacrifice fly to center that tied the game at 2-2. Leite smashed a 1-out solo home run to right-center in the top of the seventh inning, giving Hodges a 3-2 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh.
Pinch-hitter Scott Kazcor reached on an error to lead off the frame, and he was followed by back-to-back singles that loaded the bases with no outs. Ouelette took 1 pitch, a ball, then smashed the 1-0 offering to center field for his seventh home run of the season, a walkoff grand slam that earned San Diego Christian a series split against Azusa Pacific.
Heading into the seventh inning, Hodges had given up just 4 hits and a pair of runs that both resulted from Cougar errors. Hodges took the loss, dropping to 2-3 on the season.
Azusa Pacific takes on The Master’s College in the second-to-last GSAC series of the season, visiting the Mustangs on Wednesday and Thursday for 3 p.m. contests before hosting a Saturday doubleheader at noon on April 24. The Master’s is currently tied with Concordia for the sixth and final GSAC Tournament berth, 3 games ahead of the Cougars.