AZUSA, Calif. -- The NAIA’s No. 6-ranked Fresno Pacific got a first-inning grand slam to take an early 4-run lead, and Azusa Pacific never got closer than 3 runs the rest of the way despite a 15-hit afternoon in a 12-7 loss to the Sunbirds Thursday afternoon.
Redshirt freshman designated hitter Matt Page led the way with a 3-for-5 afternoon, and junior first baseman Johnathan Erb had a pair of doubles to lead another trio of 2-hit performances for the Cougars. However, the early 4-run deficit turned into an insurmountable 12-2 rout in the middle innings before Azusa Pacific roughed up Fresno Pacific’s bullpen for 5 runs in the final 3 innings.
The Sunbirds got back-to-back 1-out singles in the first inning, and Tyler Pryor drew a 2-out walk to load the bases for Michael Rivera, who launched the 2-0 offering from senior righthander Morgan Wynne over the fence in left-center for the 2-out first-inning grand slam.
Azusa Pacific answered with single runs in the first and third innings, cutting the Fresno Pacific lead to 5-2, and Wynne seemed to settle down after allowing another run on 2 second-inning doubles. He struck out Pryor to end the second inning, the first of 10 straight Sunbirds retired by Wynne, including 5 of his 6 strikeouts in the contest.
However, Fresno Pacific opened the sixth with consecutive singles, and Wynne left the game after issuing a 4-pitch walk that loaded the bases with no outs. Freshman reliever C.J. Beatty hit the first batter he faced to plate the first of 5 sixth-inning runs, and he gave up 2-run single to Trent Soares that gave Fresno Pacific an 8-2 lead. A wild pitch and another walk loaded the bases again to prompt another call to the bullpen. Although junior lefthander Brent Warren’s first pitch was slapped back up the middle for 2 more runs, he retired the next 3 batters to get out of the inning with the Cougars trailing, 10-2.
Fresno Pacific catcher Michael Vaughn rounded out the Fresno Pacific scoring with a 2-run home run in the seventh inning, his second straight game with a home run. His 1-out shot to left pushed the Sunbirds’ lead to 12-2 before the Cougar rally started in the bottom of the seventh. A 1-out error on a sacrifice fly to center field extended the inning for Azusa Pacific, which cashed in 3 more unearned runs after the error to cut the deficit to 12-6. Another sacrifice fly in the eighth plated the Cougars’ final run, bringing the final margin to 12-7.
Fresno Pacific was led by Wes Dorrell, who went 4-for-6 with 2 doubles and 3 RBIs, and Rivera, Soares, and Andrew Douglas each turned in 2-hit performances to contribute to the Sunbirds’ 16-hit attack.
Junior third baseman Jeff West was 2-for-3 with an RBI, and freshman Matt Kimmel came off the bench to go 2-for-2. Azusa Pacific’s 15-hit afternoon was its fourth-best single-game total of the year, and it was the sixth time in the past 10 games that the Cougars have registered at least 10 hits.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific falls to 17-15 overall, 10-11 GSAC, while Fresno Pacific improves to 21-11 overall and 15-7 in GSAC play. The teams wrap up the 4-game series with a noon doubleheader in Fresno on Saturday.
The Cougars will play an exhibition contest on Tuesday, April 5, against the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Class A Advanced affiliate, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. Tickets to the annual exhibition matchup in Rancho Cucamonga are $5 each and can be purchased through the Azusa Pacific baseball office (email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact associate head coach Sean McCorry by phone at 626-815-6000 ext. 3258).