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Cougars Outdueled In Doubleheader

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February 24, 2011
Joe Reinsch
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AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific got strong performances from both of its starting pitchers in Thursday’s Golden State Athletic Conference doubleheader against Vanguard, but the Cougar bats were limited to just 8 hits in 16 innings Thursday as the Lions swept the twinbill, 10-3 and 1-0.

In the opener, senior righthander Morgan Wynne registered 8 strikeouts in 6 innings, scattering a pair of runs on 5 hits, but a 3-error eighth inning allowed Vanguard to plate 3 runs and take a 5-1 lead. Azusa Pacific got 2 runs back, cutting the deficit to 5-3 heading into the ninth, but Vanguard put the game out of reach with 5 runs on 6 hits in the top of the ninth for the final 10-3 margin.

In the nightcap, freshman righthander Jacob Cage took a 3-hit shutout into extra innings of the scheduled 7-inning nightcap. However, the Cougars, batting in the top half of the inning as the visiting team, left the bases loaded in the top of the eighth after putting runners at first and second with no outs.

Sophomore second baseman Ryan Henley pulled back a sacrifice bunt attempt with the Vanguard defense moving early, but his full swing resulted in a fly out to left for the first out, and freshman catcher Matt Page smoked a fly ball that ran out of steam in right-center field for the second out. Senior DH Anthony Delgado drew a walk to load the bases, but another well-hit ball to the outfield was held up in the air for a routine fly out to right to send the game into the bottom of the eighth still scoreless.

The 7-inning game was originally scheduled to be played in Costa Mesa as part of a Saturday doubleheader before schedules were adjusted to avoid the likelihood of this weekend’s forecasted rain. Since the 7-inning game was originally scheduled as Vanguard’s home game, the Lions were the home team for the second game, and they claimed the win in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the eighth.

Kyle Hardman led off the frame with a single up the middle, just the fourth hit of the game off Cage, who struck out 8 batters in his first 7 innings of 3-hit shutout pitching. Jerry Pena moved Hardman to second with a sacrifice bunt, and pinch-runner Sean Wilson moved to third on a wild pitch. Mario Romero pulled Cage’s 1-0 offering down the third-base line, just underneath the outstretched glove of third baseman Dusty Sanderson, bringing Wilson home for the game-winner.

The Cougars led the first game for the first 3 innings, manufacturing a run in the bottom of the first inning on a pair of hits plus a hit-batsman. However, Vanguard southpaw starter Antonio Peraza retired the next 17 batters following junior first baseman Johnathan Erb’s 2-out RBI single in the first inning. The next Cougar to reach base was Erb, who was hit by pitch in the bottom of the seventh but was erased the very next pitch on a double-play groundout to shortstop.

After junior lefthanded reliever Tim Lu issued a 1-out walk in the top of the eighth, back-to-back errors in the middle infield loaded the bases before Lu sent a pickoff throw past first base to let the first run of the inning score on the third error of the frame. Pinch-hitter Eric Sanchez brought home another run with a sacrifice bunt, and the Lions scored their third run on their only hit of the inning, a single to center from Romero.

Following the doubleheader sweep, Azusa Pacific falls to 8-6 overall, 1-2 in GSAC play, while Vanguard improves to 6-7 overall, 2-1 GSAC. The 4-game GSAC-opening series concludes with a single 9-inning game in Costa Mesa, which will be played Friday at noon.