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Photo by Ken Williams
Brendan Casey sealed the comeback win for Azusa Pacific with a walkoff home run in the bottom of the 9th inning in game one of the double header against Cal State San Marcos.

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February 18, 2012
Chris Baker
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*Update--May 2: Cal State San Marcos Forfeits Game Two Due To An Ineligible Player)

AZUSA, Calif.-- Azusa Pacific opened up Saturday with an impressive comeback win, capped by a walk off home run in the bottom of the 9th, but gave up a 6-2 lead in the nightcap to post a split against Cal State San Marcos.

Azusa Pacific (7-4) trailed 6-0 in the second inning of the first game, but chipped away with four straight scoring innings before Brendan Casey put the final touches on the comeback with a bomb over the right field wall to defeat Cal State San Marcos (8-2) 8-7. The Cougars (Azusa Pacific edition) recorded 14 hits in the win, and got hits from seven players, and RBIs from five as they slowly plugged away at the six-run deficit.

“It was great to see that guys didn’t give up. That’s a testament to their character. We did that in the second game too, but we couldn’t get the hits,” said head coach Paul Svagdis. “I like the way they carry themselves. I think the biggest thing we can take out of today is that this team just hangs in there.”

Freshman pitcher Zach Hedges made his first collegiate appearance, and after settling in looked like a season pro; allowing just two runs (one earned) in six and two thirds innings while recording four strikeouts to go with no walks.

“He’s been doing a great job. He’s been throwing a lot of intersquads and our hitters said he was tough, so we gave him the opportunity” said Svagdis. “I thought he did a great job.”

Hedges gave up an earned run in the 2nd inning, but continually pitched well under pressure as he allowed seven hits, but only let one runner cross the plate from the 2nd to 8th inning.

“It felt really good to get out there and get my opportunity. The first inning I had some nerves, but my teammates helped me through it,” said Hedges. “I felt good with the outing. [Coach] told me not to be nervous, that we had nothing to lose. That made me feel more confident.”

In the second game the teams reversed roles as San Marcos overcame a 6-2 deficit to post a 10-7 win behind a pair of home runs and five extra-base hits. Azusa Pacific swung the bat well as it notched 11 hits, but the team left 11 runners on base and struck out nine times.

In the first game Ben Ruder got the start, looking to continue his strong senior campaign. But he lasted just one inning as Cal State San Marcos scored five quick runs on five hits. Hedges replaced him in the second inning and gave up a run to put Azusa Pacific down 6-0 going into the bottom of the 2nd. Azusa Pacific got on the board when Anthony Rodriguez singled to left, plating Matt Kimmel before Casey scored on a wild pitch to make it 6-2.

In the 3rd frame Hedges put San Marcos down in order, but Azusa Pacific returned the favor with a 1-2-3 showing of its own. However, over the next three innings Matt Page, and Kimmel tabbed RBIs while Sammy Soyring drove in two Cougars to tie up the game at 7-7.

Jesus Del Rosario replaced Hedges with two outs in the 8th inning, and despite giving up two hits he got out of the frame by getting Anthony Renteria to fly out to centerfield. After a scoreless inning by Azusa Pacific Colby Gurney got the nod, and needed just six pitches to get Azusa Pacific back to the plate.

In the bottom of the 9th Casey got ahead 2-1 in the count, and got crushed a high fastball over the right field wall to complete Azusa Pacific’s comeback win.

“I was just trying to stay short and put it in play,” said Casey. “I didn’t know if it would get out, but when I saw it did it was a great feeling. There isn’t much like it. I was just happy to celebrate with the teammates and get the win.”

Azusa Pacific registered seven walks in the game, and struck out just three times as the team consistently put the ball in play. Five players recorded two or more hits, led by Brent Warren’s and Leyland’s 3-for-5 performances.

In the nightcap Azusa Pacific continued to roll, jumping ahead 2-0 in the 1st inning after Erb and Warren posted RBI singles. In the 3rd inning, after San Marcos tied it at 2-2 in the 2nd, Azusa Pacific put up four runs, all with two outs. With the bases loaded Ryan Henley was beaned, scoring Leyland. Then Azusa Pacific’s roll of the dice paid off as Rodriguez’s bases loaded squeeze-bunt scored Warren. Kimmel then doubled to left field, plating Henley and Rodriguez to put Azusa Pacific ahead 6-2 going into the 4th inning.

But San Marcos was persistent, as it got on two more on the board on a home run by Kyle Secciani to keep it close at 6-4. San Marcos then extended the lead with back-to-back three-run innings in the 7th and 8th, putting Azusa Pacific down 10-6 going into the bottom of the 9th. Danny Gonzales hit a one-out single, and then advanced to third base on a double by Page. Soyring’s sac-fly to right field got Gonzales across the plate, but the threat would end there as San Marcos earned the split with a 10-7 win.

Azusa Pacific notched five two-out RBIs in the loss, but left 11 runners on base. Alan Garcia, who had been lights out this year, gave up his first two earned runs in the game, while Michael Finnigan gave up four runs (two earned) in five innings of work. Gurney pitched another perfect inning and Jason Plowman threw for two innings and gave up three runs on three hits.

With the split Azusa Pacific moves to 7-4 on the season and opens GSAC play against Biola next Thursday.