FRESNO, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific’s offense wasted no time getting on the board after it was shut out in Saturday’s opening game of a Golden State Athletic Conference road doubleheader at Fresno Pacific, scoring 3 runs in the first to give Jacob Cage an early lead.
That was all the freshman righthander needed, as he scattered 5 hits and struck out 5 in the 7-inning victory. Although Cage only retired the side in order twice, he did retire the leadoff man in all 7 innings and retired the first 2 Fresno Pacific batters in 5 of the 7 frames. The Sunbirds put a runner on with only 1 out in the fifth and sixth innings, but Cage picked off Karlan Andrews in the fifth and got an inning-ending double play grounder after issuing a 1-out walk in the sixth.
The Cougars, who scored all 3 first-inning runs with 2 outs, added a single run in the fourth along with another 3 runs, again all with 2 outs in the sixth inning. Senior centerfielder Alex Ring, senior catcher Anthony Delgado, and junior designated hitter Brent Warren each had 2 hits in the second game, and all 3 were instrumental in the 3-run first.
Ring hit a 1-out double down the left-field line, and Delgado drove him in with a 2-out single. Warren capped the scoring in the inning, following sophomore leftfielder Trevor Lothrop’s run-scoring double with an RBI triple to right-center that gave Azusa Pacific a 3-0 lead.
Ring also led off the third with a single, advanced to third on junior first baseman Johnathan Erb’s double and then scored on Delgado’s sacrifice fly that pushed the lead to 4-0. In the sixth, Warren beat out a bunt single and scored on senior rightfielder Josh Leite’s 1-out, 2-run double that provided the Cougars’ final 7-run margin of victory.
In the opener, Fresno Pacific scored the only run of the game with Trent Soares’ leadoff home run in the first inning, which was 1 of only 3 Sunbirds hits off junior righthander Ben Ruder. However, Fresno Pacific’s right-handed starting pitcher Aaron Lynn fired 8.1 innings of shutout ball before giving up a 1-out double to Ring in the ninth. Lynn left the game after Ring’s double, and Michael Rivera retired the final 2 Cougar batters to preserve the 1-0 win and pick up his fifth save of the year.
Ruder took the loss despite a complete-game effort, striking out 5 and surrendering only 2 other hits and 2 walks in 8 innings after Soares’ first-inning solo shot. Ring was 2-for-4 with a double in the opener, and he finished the day with 4 hits in 7 at-bats to lift his season batting average to .305 (32-for-105). No Fresno Pacific hitters recorded multiple hits in the same game, and only Scott Laird and Andrew Douglas hit safely in both games of the doubleheader.
With the split, Azusa Pacific remains tied for fourth place in the GSAC with Point Loma Nazarene, which split Saturday’s doubleheader with Vanguard. The Cougars are now 18-16 overall, 11-12 in GSAC play, leading a group of 4 teams all within a half-game in the middle of the conference standings. Fresno Pacific drops from a second-place tie with California Baptist to sole possession of third place at 22-12 overall, 16-8 GSAC.
The Cougars’ next game is 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 email@example.com or contact associate head coach Sean McCorry by phone at 626-815-6000 ext. 3258).
Azusa Pacific continues GSAC play with a 4-game series later in the week with San Diego Christian, taking on the Hawks in a Thursday, April 7 doubleheader in Lakeside before returning home for a noon twinbill on Saturday, April 9.