CARSON, Calif.-- How a team responds to adversity can make or break a season. And if today’s game was any indication of how the Azusa Pacific baseball team will be for the rest of 2012 season the Cougars are in good shape as they overcame two comeback attempts by Cal State Dominguez Hills before posting a 6-3 win in the 12th inning.
With a 2-1 lead with two outs in the bottom of the 9th the Toros’(4-8) Ray Patchen picked a perfect time to notch his first career-hit as he singled up the middle to tie the game at 2-2. Then after Tyler Putjenter put Azusa Pacific (11-5) back ahead in the top of the 11th the Toros got another clutch RBI in the bottom of the frame to keep the game alive. But Cal State Dominguez Hills’ magic wasn’t enough to come back from Jordan Leyland’s second home run of the game, this time a three-run bomb, as Cameron Ross shut down the Toros’ bats to register his first win of the year.
“No one hung their head, they stayed focused throughout,” said head coach Paul Svagdis. “I think all of the guys did a good job. The thing that stands out to me is that everyone is having an impact.”
Leyland, who hit his 6th home run in the last four games to extend his hitting streak to 16 games, went 2-for-5 with four RBIs. Putjenter went 3-for-6 with two RBIs, while Matt Kimmel scored two runs after getting three hits and two stolen bases. The Cougar bats struck out only six times and drew five walks against CSUDH’s pitcher-by-committee approach. The Toros swapped pitchers five times and had each of its first four pitchers toss two innings apiece.
That, however, wasn’t the case for Azusa Pacific as the Cougars got a gem of a performance from freshman Zach Hedges. The pitcher from Glendora, who was one out away from the win, pitched seven and two-thirds innings and struck out nine batters while walking none in his first collegiate start. He allowed seven hits and one earned run before being relieved by Jason Plowman in the 8th inning.
“I thought he pitched well,” said Svagdis. “He did great and threw the ball in the zone. We had a little trouble scoring runs but he kept giving us consistent innings.”
In the bottom of the 9th Alan Garcia got in early trouble, allowing runners to reach 1st and 3rd with no outs. But after two straight strikeouts the junior looked prime for his sixth save of the season. But the Toros were able to plate the tying run as Garcia blew his first save opportunity of the season. Tim Lu came in to pitch the 10th and got Cal State Dominguez to go down in order, setting up the Azusa Pacific offense for the win.
In the top of the 11th Kimmel singled with two outs and then advanced to second on a passed ball. Brendan Casey advanced him to third on an infield single before Putjenter got a base hit through the left side to give the Cougars the go-ahead run. But the stubborn Toros got back on the board in the bottom of the 11th with a two-out single to push it to the 12th inning.
In the 12th Sammy Soyring got a one-out single, and Brent Warren walked to put the go-ahead run on second base. Then Leyland took a 2-0 offering and sent it over the wall in right-center field to give Azusa Pacific a commanding 6-3 lead.
Ross, who relieved Lu in the 11th, needed just eight pitches to seal the Cougars’ ninth win in the last 11 games as they won 6-3 in their longest game of the season. The entire Azusa Pacific pitching staff allowed only one walk and punched out 14 batters despite blowing two save opportunities. The Cougars also pounded the strike zone, throwing 115 strikes in 162 pitches.
With the win Azusa Pacific evened up its road record to 4-4 and will have a chance to push it above .500 with another match-up with Cal State San Marcos on Friday at 2 p.m. before hosting the Cougars for a Saturday doubleheader.