AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific defeated the NAIA’s No. 8-ranked Point Loma Nazarene, 6-5, in come-from-behind fashion with 2 runs in the bottom of the eighth to open the 4-game Golden State Athletic Conference series between the teams Wednesday in Azusa.
The Cougars took a 4-1 lead into the eighth with junior starting pitcher Colby Gurney still on the mound, and he started the inning by retiring pinch hitter Alec Martinez. Second basemen Tyler Kuehl then singled to right field before Allen Boyer flied out to center for the second out. Gurney then walked JJ Reading before he was lifted for freshman righthander Jacob Cage.
On Cage’s first pitch, Scott Stidham singled through the right side, scoring Kuehl from second and making it a 4-2 game. Three pitches later Shane Stoner drilled a 3-run homer over the left-center field wall as the Sea Lions took a 5-4 lead.
The Point Loma lead was short-lived, though, as Azusa Pacific struck back in the home half of the eighth. With freshman starting pitcher Garrett Levson still on the mound, senior outfielder Alex Ring led off with a fly out to the right field warning track. First baseman Johnathan Erb singled up the middle, and he was replaced at first base by pinch-runner Tyler Putjenter. Levsen caught Putjenter leaning off first base and rifled a pickoff throw that got Putjenter hung up in a rundown. First baseman Edgar Molina threw the ball to second baseman Tyler Kuehl, but Putjenter acrobatically avoided the tag and arrived at second safely.
The Cougars capitalized on the failed pick off attempt. Senior catcher Anthony Delgado singled a 3-2 pitch up the middle to score Putjenter from second and tie the game at 5-5. Junior Brent Warren pinch ran for Delgado at first, and sophomore designated hitter Trevor Lothrop placed a perfect bunt single down the third base line, advancing Warren to second.
Levsen was replaced by junior relief pitcher Kelsen Boyer to face freshman leftfielder Matt Kimmel. Kimmel’s routine grounder to second was bobbled by Kuehl, limiting the Sea Lions to just 1 out on a fielder’s choice at second base, advancing Warren to third and keeping the inning alive. The Cougars once again capitalized on the Sea Lion’s miscue, when freshman catcher Matt Page doubled to deep left-center field to bring Warren home with the go-ahead run for a 6-5 Azusa Pacific lead.
Gurney’s final line was 3 runs, 2 earned, on 4 hits with 2 walks and 1 strikeout in 7.2 innings pitched. Cage improved to 3-3 overall with the win in relief, giving up 2 earned runs on 2 hits while striking out 1 in 1.1 innings of work.
Levsen took the loss, giving up 6 runs, 5 earned, on 9 hits with 2 walks and 2 strikeouts in 7.1 innings of work, and he falls to 2-4 on the season. Stoner’s eighth-inning 3-run home run was his team-leading fourth of the season for Point Loma Nazarene.
Senior Josh Leite was 2-for-3 with 2 RBIs and a walk, and he hit his second home run of the season. The Cougars finished with 10 hits on the evening, as 4 players (Leite, Erb, Delgado, and Lothrop) each had two hits on the evening.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 13-11 overall, 6-7 in GSAC play. Point Loma Nazarene falls to 10-9 overall, 5-7 in GSAC play. Azusa Pacific continues the series against No. 8-ranked Point Loma Nazarene with the second game of the 4-game set on Thursday, March 16 at 5 p.m. in Azusa.