AZUSA, Calif.-- They say pitching wins championships, and Azusa Pacific is hoping they’re right. The Cougars got another solid performance from their staff as the registered their fourth straight win of the season with a 4-3 defeat of Redlands on Tuesday night.
Jacob Cage pitched seven and two-thirds innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits to win his first game of the season, while Jesus Del Rosario set up Alan Garcia for his fourth save in as many tries.
“Cage is a bulldog out there. He’s a competitor and we want to put the ball in his hands,” said head coach Paul Svagdis. “It’s great experience for our bullpen to pitch in tight games. Del Rosario did a great job to get us to Garcia and we feel good going into the 9th with him.”
Cage gave up a game-opening double off the left-center wall and later had the runner score on a throwing error. But after that leadoff hit he retired 16 consecutive Redlands (3-2) batters, striking out a total of four in the game without allowing a walk.
In the 6th inning he gave up his first hit since the 1st inning before the Bulldogs tagged him for a pair of runs to tie the game at 3-3. But the sophomore went back out to the bump for the 7th, and dug an early hole after giving up a single and following that with a hit batter to put the go-ahead run on second base. But Cage responded well, first by picking off the man at second, and then by forcing the Bulldogs into a 3-6-3 inning ending double play. Following an RBI double by Johnathan Erb in the bottom of the 7th Cage went back on the bump in the top half of the 8th; registering two outs before being relieved by Del Rosario after Alex Scheiwe reached on a drag bunt.
Del Rosario would need just five pitches to get Trenton Lively to strikeout looking to end the inning, setting up Garcia to close things out in the 9th against the heart of the Bulldogs’ order. Redlands opened with a base hit and looked poised for the comeback. However a fake-bunt and run by the Bulldogs spelled doom for Redlands as Matt Page gunned down Chase Tucker at second base for the first out. From there Garcia would zone-in, getting No. 4 hitter Ben Saunders to strike out swinging before ending the game with a routine fly out to right field.
“It’s great for our bullpen to pitch in tied or one-run games,” said Svagdis. “Garcia’s done that four times now and that will hopefully prepare him for conference.”
But for as clutch as the pitching was, the batting was far from opportunistic as Azusa Pacific (6-3) struck out 11 times and left 11 men on base, and ended three innings with the bases loaded. Brent Warren and Matt Kimmel continued to play well, but outside of those two no other Cougar registered more than one hit. Erb led the team with two RBIs, but left three men on base, as did Trevor Lothrop and Anthony Rodriguez.
Azusa Pacific opened the game with three straight scoring innings, but tallied just one run in each frame. Kimmel, who stole three bases, went 3-for-4 with three runs and made a spectacular over the shoulder catch in centerfield, opened the bottom of the 1st with a single, and then stole second base. Jordan Leyland then plated him with a 2-out base hit. In the 2nd inning Rodriguez crushed a 1-out line drive to left center for a double before stealing 3rd base. But again Azusa Pacific failed to take advantage, mustering up just one run on Ryan Henly’s groundout to the shortstop.
Then in the 3rd inning Kimmel scored again, but Erb was thrown out at home on a seed from centerfielder Scheiwe to end Azusa Pacific’s threat. The Cougars would load the bases in the 4th, 7th, and 8th but capitalize with just one run, which turned out to be enough in the end.
With the win Azusa Pacific improves to 3-0 at home this year and extends its winning streak to four games. In all four wins the Cougars have allowed four runs or fewer, while Garcia has tabbed a save in three of them. On Wednesday (weather permitting) Azusa Pacific is slated to face Cal Poly Pomona for a home game at 5 p.m., where the Cougars hope to keep both streaks alive.