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Nothing Unearned About It

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Photo by Ken Williams
Jordan Leyland celebrates after hitting his first of two home runs on Friday night.

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February 24, 2012
Chris Baker
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Video Highlights By Azusa Pacific Student Rob Small

AZUSA, Calif.-- Up until the 6th inning Azusa Pacific was in the midst of a pitching battle, leading by one run against the NAIA’s 10th ranked Biola. But one key Eagle error quickly changed the complexion of the game as the Cougars broke it wide open, scoring eight runs, all unearned and all with two outs, before going onto defeat Biola 13-4 to improve to 2-0 in GSAC play.

With one on and one out Johnathan Erb reached after Biola’s first baseman couldn’t hold onto a throw from second baseman Dustin Williams. On the next play Matt Kimmel grounded out to second for the would-be third out, but with the added opportunity the Cougars connected on six hits; highlighted by Jordan Leyland’s three-run home run that sailed well over the 405 foot marker in centerfield that gave the Cougars a 9-1 lead.

“For six innings it was a one-run game, so obviously that was a big play,” said head coach Paul Svagdis. “Sometimes it’s those small moments that can make and break things, and as long as our process stays strong hopefully we can take advantage of it.”

Leyland had a monster game, going 3-for-5 while hitting two home runs to finish with seven RBIs. The first baseman has now hit safely in all 13 games this year, and has notched three games of 3+ RBIs.

“I haven’t had a streak like this before, but baseball is a humbling sport. You have all these highs right now, but it could hit you easily and you can go in a slump,” said Leyland. “I’m just trying to take it one game at a time. The most important thing right now is not worrying about what I do at the plate, but winning every game with my team.”

Brent Warren, who tallied three RBIs, extended his hitting streak to 10 games after going 2-for-5 with two doubles and three runs, while Erb, Brendan Casey, and Matt Page each finished with two hits. Azusa Pacific (9-4) registered 11 two-out RBIs after batting 8-for-15 with two down to give starting pitcher Michael Finnigan more than enough support for his first win of the year. Finnigan struck out five batters, and kept the Cougars in the game before the offense came alive in the 6th.

“I thought he pitched his tail off today,” said Svagdis. “Going into today there was that expectation that there would be a lot of runs, but being around the game you realize that isn’t the reality. But for us to get that one run across and for him to trade zeroes was really impressive.”

Finnigan opened the game with a clean first inning before the Cougars bats plated the first run of the game as Leyland singled through the right side of the infield to put Warren across after he doubled with one out. But that would be the only run for either team in the first five and a half innings as both pitchers were dialed in.

However, in the 6th the Cougars got on base when Erb reached on an error. He then advanced on a wild pitch before Kimmel grounded out for what could have been the third out of the frame. Azusa Pacific took advantage of the slight opening as Danny Gonzales drove Erb in on a base hit to right field to ignite a six-hit rally where the Cougars walked twice and reached on a hit batter.

Azusa Pacific followed Gonzales’ single with back-to-back base hits and Leyland capped the run with a bomb to the deepest part of the yard to plate three more.

In the following inning it was de javu for Biola as Casey opened with a single up the middle followed by a Richie Brown strikeout. Anthony Rodriguez then reached on the Eagles’ second error of the game before Sammy Soyring was awarded first base after getting beaned to load the bags. Warren then scored Casey on a fielder’s choice, which would have been the third out of the inning, before Leyland again crushed Biola with a three run homer; this time on a line drive over the left-center fence.

The Eagles would get three runs across the plate in the 9th inning, but at that point the game was well in hand as the Cougars improved to 6-1 at home this season, and 2-0 in GSAC play. Colby Gurney tossed 1.1 innings of relief and made an impressive catch on a come-backer by Biola’s Dustin Williams in the top of the 7th. Alan Garcia pitched in a non-save situation, allowing three hits and three runs (one earned), before Jesus Del Rosario struck out a pair of batters and forced another into a popout to end the game.

The Cougars and Eagles shift their series to Biola for an 11 a.m. double header on Saturday.