AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific went down to its final out before junior shortstop Sammy Soyring delivered a bases-loaded 2-out single in the bottom of the ninth to lift the Cougars to a 3-2 win over Cal State San Marcos Monday afternoon.
Soyring’s 2-run knock through the left side snapped a 2-game losing streak and gives Azusa Pacific a much-needed win as it heads into the start of Golden State Athletic Conference play later this week with a 4-game series against Vanguard. All 4 Cougar defeats this season had come by 2 runs or less, and Cal State San Marcos closer Kyle Smart looked like he was going to work his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth.
Smart issued a leadoff walk to senior catcher Anthony Delgado in the bottom of the ninth, and junior first baseman Johnathan Erb followed with a single down the right-field line that pushed Delgado’s courtesy runner Matt Kimmel to third base with no outs. Sophomore Jason Plowman walked on 4 pitches to load the bases with no outs, but Smart induced a groundout to second that forced Kimmel out at home for the first out.
He then struck out freshman pinch-hitter Dusty Sanderson for the second out, when Soyring stepped to the plate and pulled a 1-1 pitch through the hole between third base and shortstop to score pinch-runner Tyler Putjenter from third and Plowman from second.
Soyring, a seventh-inning defensive replacement at second base, reached safely in both of his plate appearances. He drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the eighth, moving to second on Alex Ring’s sacrifice bunt, but he was stranded there when Cal State San Marcos reliever Brett Miller struck out Anthony Rodriguez and induced an inning-ending groundout. Soyring’s ninth-inning knock lifted his season batting average to .412 (7-for-17), and his 7 RBIs puts him within 1 of the team RBI lead.
“Sammy has been doing a terrific job coming off the bench for us, and he’s made a huge adjustment offensively,” Cougar head coach Paul Svagdis said. “The coaches weren’t surprised that he had a good at-bat in that situation, because he looked so confident at the plate. I’m really excited for him and how he helped us win that game today.”
Azusa Pacific was held hitless through the first 4 innings by Cal State San Marcos starter Johnny Holtman, who struck out 9 in 6 innings of work. Meanwhile, Azusa Pacific starter Ben Ruder fired 3 perfect innings, striking out 5 straight at one point in a 36-pitch outing.
“We’ve had some 1-run games this year, and until we start getting a little better offensively it seems that’s where we’re going to be,” Svagdis said. “We need to cut our strikeouts down, but we like our bullpen and our defense. I really like what the middle infield is doing, the outfield is tracking a lot of balls down, and Anthony Delgado’s catching well behind the plate. With a combination of all those things, hopefully we play good baseball and we’re in every game, and if we’re in every game maybe we’ll have a chance to do this more often.”
Cal State San Marcos scored the game’s first run in the top of the fifth off junior lefty Brent Warren, who loaded the bases with no outs in that frame on a pair of walks followed by a hit-batsman. Johnny Omahen slapped an infield single to the right side of the infield, with Ryan Henley’s diving stop limiting Cal State to just 1 run on the hit.
Warren induced a popup and a pair of infield groundouts to end the frame with just the 1 run of damage, and Plowman evened the game on the sixth pitch of the bottom half of the inning. He drove a 2-0 offering from Holtman off the right-field netting for a 1-out solo home run that tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Cal State San Marcos went up again by a run when third baseman Austin Coleman led off the eighth with a solo home run to left on the first pitch thrown by junior southpaw Tim Lu. Lu regrouped for a pair of strikeouts in the eighth, and he eliminated Mitch Ferguson’s ninth-inning leadoff single with a pickoff to first that caught Ferguson trying to steal second. The victory for Lu (2-0) was the seventh decision in 11 games for Azusa Pacific’s bullpen this year, and Cougar relievers enter GSAC play with a 5-2 record and a combined ERA of 2.51.
“I really thought the pitchers did a great job, and they pitched out of some trouble today,” Svagdis said. “I thought Tim did a good job after giving up a first-pitch home run, and he came back in and filled the zone up. I am very excited for the pitching staff and what they’ve been doing.”
With the win, Azusa Pacific is now 7-4 on the year heading into Wednesday’s GSAC opener. Cal State San Marcos, an NAIA independent which has played exclusively GSAC foes so far, drops to 7-6.
“I think the guys are excited to get started playing the conference teams,” Svagdis said. “We try to take every game with the same intensity level, but we’re still excited because we know that conference is where the season really starts.”
The Cougars open conference play with this week’s 4-game series against Vanguard, with home games at 5 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 23-24, followed by Saturday’s 11 a.m. doubleheader in Costa Mesa.