ATHERTON, Calif.-- Coming into today’s double-header Azusa pacific was looking to record back-to-back wins for the first time in the young season. But the Cougars one-upped that as they registered their first winning streak after posting a 3-2 win over Menlo and a 14-5 drubbing of Westmont on Saturday afternoon.
In the first game the Cougars got a gem of a pitching performance from senior Ben Ruder. The 6-4 right hander tossed eight strong innings, giving up just two runs on three hits and struck out seven batters. He also retired 17 of 18 batters after allowing a first inning home run, and didn’t give up a hit in from the 2nd inning all the way until the 7th.
In the meantime Azusa Pacific took a 2-1 lead in the 2nd inning when Leyland opened with a single to right field. Brent Warren then drove him in on a single down the right field line. Warren advanced to second base on an error and reached third base on Trevor Lothrop’s groundout to second before scoring the go-ahead run on Brendan Casey’s grounder to second base.
In the 6th inning Warren hit a two-out triple, his third of the season, and scored on a base hit by Casey to give Azusa Pacific a 3-1 edge over the Oaks. Menlo, however, responded in the 7th by getting its second hit off Ruder with one out, followed by an RBI double that put the tying run in scoring position. But after forcing a groundout to third base and striking out an Oak, Ruder got out of the jam, and would pitch one more inning before giving way to Alan Garcia in the 9th.
Garcia got the first batter to fly out to centerfield, and ended the inning with consecutive strikeouts as Azusa Pacific won back-to-back games for the first time this year. The two teams combined for 10 hits in a contest dominated by pitching. Warren was the only Cougar to record two hits, while Casey tallied a team-high two RBIs.
In the second game Matt Kimmel finished just a double away from hitting for the cycle, going 4-for-4 with three RBIs and three runs.
Jason Plowman got the nod on the hill, but started shaky against the Warriors. He allowed an opening double that was followed by a triple and a single before Matt Page helped his cause by throwing out Coby Cress at second base. From there Plowman tuned in, getting the next batter to groundout to second and finishing the inning with a strikeout.
In the bottom of the 1st Azusa Pacific responded when Leyland ripped a one-out two-RBI double into right centerfield. One out later Kimmel gave the Cougars the lead on a bomb over the left field wall.
In the bottom of the 2nd Azusa Pacific added to its lead after Tyler Putjenter grounded out with Sammy Soyring on third base. Then with Page on second base Johnathan Erb singled to right to put the Cougars ahead 6-2.
In the top of the 3rd Plowman allowed the first batter to reach on a base knock to center, but he was cleaned up when the following hitter grounded into a 6-3 double play. In the bottom of the frame the Cougars continued to press as Kimmel started things off with a single and a stolen base. He then scored on Casey’s base hit to right field to extend the lead to 7-2.
The 4th inning started off just as the 3rd, with the leadoff runner getting aboard but getting sent back on a double play. In the bottom of the inning the Cougars all but crushed Westmont’s hopes of a comeback as Leyland plated Putjenter on a sacrifice fly before Kimmel tripled to score Warren. Kimmel then crossed home plate on a left field single by Danny Gonzales to make it 10-2 heading into the 5th inning where Westmont finally responded with a run, but had a crushing 1-6-3 double play end the inning.
In the bottom of the frame the Cougars notched their most devastating inning where they scored four runs on five hits to put Westmont away for good. Azusa Pacific wouldn’t score from there on out, and wouldn’t need to with as they held on for a 14-5 non-conference win.
Leyland register three RBIs in the game, while Erb and Warren posted a pair apiece. The Cougars will put their three-game streak on the line this week as they face Redlands, Cal Poly Pomona, and Cal State San Marcos (DH) at home beginning on Tuesday.