AZUSA, Calif. -- Redshirt freshman Matt Page blasted a leadoff home run in the second inning off Drew Madrigal, part of a 3-run second-inning outburst that helped Azusa Pacific hand the NAIA’s No. 3-ranked California Baptist a 5-1 defeat, the first loss in Golden State Athletic Conference play for the defending conference champs.
Madrigal, the reigning GSAC Pitcher of the Year, entered the game with a streak of 19.1 consecutive scoreless innings, and the Lancers entered the game with a season-high 9-game winning streak, all against conference opponents. After the Cougars were unable to cash in a first-inning runner on second with no outs, Madrigal’s streak was extended to 20.1 innings. However, Page got ahead in the count and squared up a 2-0 fastball for his first collegiate home run, a line drive over the right-field fence that gave Azusa Pacific a 1-0 lead and snapped Madrigal’s streak.
“For a guy like him who has a 90-mph fastball, you have to get your foot down early and not think too much,” Page said. “You just rip on it and try not worry too much about the result as much as having the right process. I knew a 2-0 fastball was coming, so I just got my foot down and tried to stay on the top half of the ball. I got a good swing on it, and good things happened. The home run felt good, but it just feels nice to be part of a win.”
The Cougars didn’t let up, either – freshman leftfielder Matt Kimmel dropped a single into right-center field and moved to second and third on a sacrifice bunt followed by a groundout. He then scored when sophomore second baseman Ryan Henley grounded a single through the right side for a 2-out RBI that made it a 2-0 game. Henley scored from first on Madrigal’s very next pitch to senior rightfielder Josh Leite, who knocked a 2-out RBI double to right-center to give Azusa Pacific an early 3-run cushion.
“I think Page’s home run helped relax the guys, and they believed they could score some runs off him,” Svagdis said. “They’ve responded all year to some adverse situations in our early conference games, and I feel like they’re really taking the process to heart by letting each game go by and coming out focused on the next game. Yesterday we were a big hit away from possibly winning that game – today we got a couple of big hits, and that was the big difference in the game.”
Meanwhile, the Cougars’ starter, righthander Morgan Wynne, tossed 7 innings of 1-run, 5-hit ball. The Lancers’ only run off Wynne came on Sharif Othman’s leadoff home run in the fifth inning, but Wynne successfully avoided any serious damage with runners on base. He allowed baserunners in 6 of his 7 innings, but only 1 of the 8 Lancers on base ever made it to third. Freshman righthander Jacob Cage fired 2 scoreless innings to pick up the save, his first of the year.
“Wynne battled us through 7 innings, which is a great position to be in with a lead,” Svagdis said. “That got us to Cage, who did an awesome job of pumping strikes.”
After giving up 3 in the first inning, Madrigal issued a 4-pitch leadoff walk in the third to junior first baseman Johnathan Erb, and senior designated hitter Anthony Delgado hit Madrigal’s next pitch back up the middle to put runners on first and second with no outs. Madrigal induced a double-play grounder, but Kimmel delivered another 2-out RBI with another solid base hit up the middle, pushing the lead to 4-0.
Othman’s fifth-inning solo home run cut the lead to 4-1, but the Cougars got that run back in the eighth inning. Senior centerfielder Alex Ring led off the inning with a single to right, but he still stood on first 2 batters later after California Baptist left-hander Jesse Arreola struck out back-to-back Cougars. Ring took matters into his own hands, stealing second base and then scoring on Page’s 2-out double to right center.
Page was 1 of 3 Cougars with 2 hits in the game, joined by Kimmel and Leite, and 4 of Azusa Pacific’s 5 runs came with 2 outs.
Madrigal went 7 innings for California Baptist, striking out 11 but surrendering 4 runs on 7 hits with a pair of walks. Othman accounted for half of the Lancers’ hit total, going 3-for-3 with his solo homer that scored his team’s only run. Josh Manzano was 2-for-3, leaving the rest of the California Baptist lineup with just 1 hit in 26 at-bats.
“Obviously Siemens got the best of us yesterday, and Madrigal pitched great after we scored a few runs,” Svagdis said. “He started to get back into a groove again, and that’s what made our defense and pitching so important.”
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 11-10 overall, 4-6 in GSAC play, while California Baptist drops to 22-3 overall, 9-1 GSAC. The teams wrap up their 4-game series with a Saturday doubleheader in Riverside that begins at 11 a.m.