AZUSA, Calif. -- The Master’s College delivered the knockout punch to Azusa Pacific’s dwindling playoff hopes, eliminating the Cougars from postseason eligibility with a doubleheader sweep Saturday afternoon in Azusa. A split would have kept the Cougars within 3 games of sixth place in the Golden State Athletic Conference with 4 games remaining, but a 9-7 opening-game loss followed by a 17-14 nightcap setback pushed Azusa Pacific 5 games out of a top-6 spot in the GSAC standings.
Senior first baseman Brice Cutspec tallied 4 hits on the day to tie Stephen Vogt’s Cougar career hits record (294), and senior third baseman Ryan Delgado increased his GSAC-leading season home run total to 18 with a pair of blasts in the opener. Cutspec and Delgado combined for 9 hits in 14 at-bats, and the pair reached safely 13 times in 18 combined plate appearances Saturday, and Delgado’s multi-hit games extended his GSAC hitting streak to 23 games.
However, the duo was overshadowed by the Mustangs’ Joe Zeller, who produced 8 runs with just 2 swings of the bat, hitting a grand slam in each game. They were his only hits all day, but both slams came with 2 outs and both gave his team the lead for good. In the first game, Zeller turned a 4-1 deficit into a 5-4 advantage with his 2-out blast to left-center, and he cleared the bases again to break a 13-13 tie with 2 outs in the top of the sixth inning of the nightcap.
Azusa Pacific took an early 3-0 lead in the first game, when Delgado and Cutspec slammed consecutive pitches out of the park, but Zeller answered in the next half-inning with his second-inning grand slam. The Master’s added another run in the third, but Cutspec hit a 2-run double with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the third to pull the Cougars to within 6-5. Delgado was cut down at the plate trying to score from first on Cutspec’s 2-bagger, and Cutspec was picked off on a throw to second base from the catcher.
The Master’s added a lone run in the fourth, but junior centerfielder Josh Leite hit a leadoff double in the sixth and later scored on a groundout to trim the margin back to 1 run at 7-6. The Mustangs answered with Jared Otto’s 2-run home run in the seventh inning before Delgado hit a 1-out opposite-field solo shot to right-center to bring the Cougars to within 9-7, which turned out to be the final margin.
In the first game alone, Delgado and Cutspec reached base safely in all 8 of their combined plate appearance, registering 5 hits in 5 at-bats with 3 home runs and 6 RBIs. Sophomore lefthander Tim Lu tossed 4.2 innings in relief, with the only damage allowed coming on Otto’s seventh-inning home run. The Master’s starter David Goodenough gave the Mustangs 8 innings, surrendering 7 runs on 11 hits with 5 strikeouts before turning the ball over to Daniel Sheaffer, who converted the final 3 outs for the save.
The Cougars struck first again in the nightcap, pushing across the first score when Zeller balked in a run with the bases loaded with 1 out in the first inning. Both teams tallied 4 runs each in the second inning, and Azusa Pacific added another 4-spot in the third inning for a 9-4 lead after 3 frames in the 7-inning nightcap. Zeller lasted just 2.1 innings on the mound, surrendering 8 runs on 8 hits.
Another 3 runs from each team in the fourth inning pushed Azusa Pacific’s 5-run lead to a 12-7 margin, but The Master’s plated 3 more in the fifth to pull to within 12-10. The Cougars manufactured another run in the bottom of the fifth on a pair of 1-out hits followed by an infield grounder that scored pinch-runner Graham Fronk from third base for a 13-10 lead.
The Master’s catcher Chris Talley led off the sixth inning with a solo home run, and a 1-out error with the bases loaded brought another Mustang baserunner across the plate to cut the margin to 13-12. Ben Ives brought the tying run across with a sacrifice bunt, and an intentional walk to Pete Goeman loaded the bases for Zeller, who delivered the game-winning grand slam.
Freshman leftfielder Trevor Lothrop hit a 1-out single, and freshman second baseman Ryan Henley drew a walk to bring Delgado and Cutspec up in the bottom of the sixth. Delgado lifted a 2-1 pitch to left-center, just short of the outfield fence for the second out, but Cutspec tied the program career hits record with his 294th base hit, 2-out RBI single that pulled Azusa Pacific to within 17-14. The Cougars threatened again in the ninth, getting a pair of runners on base with 1 out, but Mustangs reliever Jacob Miranda induced an inning-ending double play ball to third base to close out the victory.
Miranda threw the final 4 innings for The Master’s, surrendering 3 runs on 7 hits in a nightcap that featured a combined 31 runs, 34 hits and 7 errors in all. Every Azusa Pacific starter hit safely in the second game, including a 4-hit performance from Lothrop and a 3-for-4 effort from junior catcher Anthony Delgado, who caught all 16 innings for the Cougars. Ryan Delgado and Cutspec registered 2 hits apiece in the nightcap.
After the sweep, Azusa Pacific drops to 17-27 overall, 10-22 in GSAC play. The Master’s improves to 22-22 overall, 15-17 GSAC, moving into a tie for fifth place in the GSAC standings with Biola. The Cougars visit Cal State San Marcos in a non-conference matchup on Monday, April 26, before wrapping up the season with a 4-game set against Westmont. Azusa Pacific hosts the first 2 games in the series with the Warriors, a pair of 6 p.m. games on Wednesday (April 28) and Thursday (April 29) at the Cougar Baseball Complex.