AZUSA, Calif. -- Despite a dominant pitching performance from California Baptist’s Taylor Siemens, a pair of 2-out hits in the bottom of the ninth inning had the potential winning run on base for Azusa Pacific before Siemens finished the complete-game 2-1 win for the defending GSAC champion Lancers Wednesday afternoon in the opener of this week’s 4-game series.
Siemens threw 81 of his 109 pitches for strikes, didn’t walk a batter, and recorded 11 strikeouts, and he had given up only 5 hits until the ninth inning. That’s when things got interesting. Senior catcher Anthony Delgado smashed a 2-1 Siemens offering for a 1-out solo home run in the bottom of the ninth, and sophomore third baseman Brendan Casey and senior Josh Leite recorded back-to-back singles to put the potential tying and winning runs on base with 2 outs in the ninth.
However, the junior southpaw was able to strike out sophomore designated hitter Jason Plowman on a full-count fastball to close out the win against an Azusa Pacific team that just last week scored game-tying and game-winning runs with 2 outs in last week’s 15-inning win over Biola.
Siemens’ 11-strikeout gem overshadowed a strong bounce-back performance for Azusa Pacific junior righthander Colby Gurney, who effectively shut down California Baptist except for 2 solo home runs that gave the Lancers their only runs of the game. Gurney went 6 innings, scattering 2 runs on 7 hits, but reigning GSAC Player of the Year Brian Sharp led off the fourth with a solo home run, and Josh Manzano added a 2-out solo shot to left-center in the top of the sixth.
Delgado was 3-for-4 for the Cougars, raising his team-high batting average to .371, and Casey had a pair of hits for his second multiple-hit game of the year. Sophomore righthander Cameron Ross and senior righty Nolan Rudman kept Azusa Pacific within striking distance with a combined 6 strikeouts in 3 scoreless innings of relief.
Both teams left 7 runners on base, and the Cougars had the bases loaded with 1 out in the fourth on 3 straight 1-out singles from Delgado, freshman leftfielder Matt Kimmel, and Casey. Siemens struck out Brent Warren for the second out and escaped the jam when Plowman got too much air under an inning-ending flyout to center. Starting with those 2 outs, Siemens retired 15 consecutive hitters that included a 4-pitch fifth inning.
In the fourth inning, California Baptist threatened to add more damage after Sharp’s go-ahead home run. Kevin Odom hit a 1-out single and moved to second on a deep flyout to center, and Cole Bullard’s 2-out single to left had a chance to score Odom from second to make it a 2-0 game. Kimmel came up firing, though, gunning down Odom at the plate for the third out to keep it a 1-run game for the time being.
Sharp and designated hitter Jake Johnson each went 2-for-4 for the Lancers, who won their season-high ninth straight game to improve to 22-2 overall and remain unbeaten through the first 9 games of GSAC play.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific drops to 10-10 overall, 3-6 GSAC. The teams continue their 4-game series, playing another single game in Azusa Thursday at 3 p.m. before wrapping up the set with a Saturday doubleheader in Riverside.