AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific ran out of late-innings magic Wednesday night, leaving the potential tying and winning runs on the bases in the bottom of the eleventh inning in a narrow 8-7 loss to the NAIA’s No. 6-ranked Fresno Pacific Wednesday night.
The Cougars, who fell behind by a 3-0 count in the first 5 innings, battled back to tie the game in the seventh and took an eighth-inning lead against the Sunbirds’ righthanded ace Jesse Darrah, who entered the game with a 5-1 record and a sparkling 1.68 ERA. In the seventh, sophomore Trevor Lothrop delivered a game-tying 2-run pinch-hit home run with 2 outs, and an inning later freshman designated hitter Matt Page gave the Cougars their only lead of the game, 5-4, with a 1-out, 2-run single that knocked Darrah out of the game.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Trent Soares slammed the first pitch of the ninth inning over the right-field fence for a leadoff solo shot that tied the game at 5-5. With the score still tied two innings later, Wes Dorrell hit a 2-run shot to right that pushed the Sunbirds back in front, 7-5, and another pair of consecutive hits provided what turned out to be the winning run while making it a 3-run margin at 8-5.
Azusa Pacific still battled back in the bottom of the eleventh. Sophomore third baseman Jeff West and freshman pinch-hitter Joseph Daris hit back-to-back 1-out singles, and after a fly out and a walk, both scored on senior rightfielder Alex Ring’s 2-out, 2-run single to left that cut the margin to 8-7. Junior first baseman Johnathan Erb hit a scorching grounder down the first-base line, but the Fresno Pacific corner infielders were guarding the lines. Dorrell picked up the grounder and beat Erb to first base for the final out, ending the late Cougar rally.
Darrah struck out 9 in his 7.1 innings of work, but the Cougars scratched together 5 runs on 7 hits off the junior righthander. Michael Rivera picked up the win, giving up 2 runs on 3 hits and 3 walks with 3 strikeouts in 3.2 innings of relief. Every Fresno Pacific starter hit safely, with 5 of them registering multiple-hit performances for the Sunbirds’ 16-hit attack.
The Cougars were led by Ring’s 3-for-5 performance, which included the 2-run 11th-inning base hit. Junior righthander Colby Gurney shrugged off a pair of Sunbird solo home runs, putting himself in line for the win when the Cougars took the lead in the eighth. Gurney scattered 4 runs on 10 hits with a pair of strikeouts in a gritty 8-inning start.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific falls to 17-14 overall, 10-10 GSAC, while Fresno Pacific improves to 20-11 overall and 14-7 in GSAC play. The Cougars are now 1-2 in extra-inning games, while Fresno Pacific is 2-1 in extra-inning contests.
The teams continue the 4-game series with a 3 p.m. matchup in Azusa Thursday afternoon, wrapping up the series with a Saturday doubleheader in Fresno.