SAN MARCOS, Calif.-- It’s not often that a team can commit four errors through the first two innings and still come out ahead. But Azusa Pacific overcame early mistakes to win its fifth game in its last six behind another strong pitching performance from Jacob Cage and a big two-out homer in the top of the 9th by Trevor Lothrop.
Cage, who came into the game with a team-leading 22 strikeouts, K’d five San Marcos batters and allowed just one earned run in six innings of work to win his third of the season. The sophomore walked one batter and gave up only five hits and got the Cougars out of early jams after Azusa Pacific had an uncharacteristically poor defensive performance.
“I thought we pitched really well tonight. Cage gave us a great start and overcame a lot of adversity,” said head coach Paul Svagdis. “He settled in and got us out of innings. I thought the pitching did a good job despite the defense, even though the defense has kept us in it in past games.”
Alan Garcia and Jason Plowman combined to pitch three perfect innings of relief. Plowman struck out one batter and needed just eight pitches to get through the 7th and 8th innings, while Garcia struck out a pair of hitters to notch his 6th save of the year.
And whereas the pitching staff was solid again, the Cougar bats came through with a 15-hit, six-run game. Brent Warren scored three runs after going 4-for-5 from the plate, while Matt Kimmel drove in two on three hits. Seven of the nine starters registered a hit in the game with four of them tallying two or more. Jordan Leyland, who came in riding a 16-game hitting streak, went 0-for-5, but added two RBIs to his team leading total of 26.
Trevor Lothrop hit his first home run of the season, a two-run bomb in the 9th inning to help pad the Azusa Pacific lead after Brendan Casey extended the inning with a two-out double.
“It was great to see Casey get that double in the top of the 9th,” said Svagdis. “I thought the hitters did a good job of grinding it out. We took our hits when we could get them.”
Azusa Pacific struck out just four times, while walking twice. The Cougars did, however, leave 12 runners on base and register only three extra-base hits.
In the 1st inning Sammy Soyring hit a leadoff single and Warren moved him to third with a base hit to left field. Leyland then plated Soyring and moved Warren to second on a grounder to third base to give Azusa Pacific an early 1-0 lead before Johnathan Erb’s single to center scored Warren.
In the bottom of the 1st Azusa Pacific committed its first of four errors as Casey couldn’t handle a ball hit to him to start off the frame. However, his error was quickly erased on a 6-4-3 double play. Cage then gave up a single and a walk before getting out of the inning unharmed with his first strikeout.
But in the bottom of the second he wouldn’t be so lucky. After giving up a leadoff hit Cage got the next two batters out, but Casey’s second error in as many innings, followed by a Soyring mishap scored San Marcos’ first run. A wild pitch tied the game at 2-2 prior to an inning ending popup.
In the top of the 3rd Warren got on base with another single, this time on a grounder to second base. The speedster advanced to second on Leyland’s second groundout of the game before scoring on Kimmel’s base hit to left to put Azusa Pacific ahead 3-2.
The Cougars scored again in the top of the 5th when Warren notched his third hit of the game, this time a triple. Leyland scored him on the next at-bat with another RBI groundout. In the bottom of the 5th San Marcos got a run across when Austin Coleman hit a one-out sac fly to centerfield to make it 4-3 in favor of Azusa Pacific.
In the top of the 9th Casey hit a big two-out double, setting up Lothrop for the game-sealing homer to right field. In the bottom of the frame Garcia relieved Plowman and struck out the first and last batter while getting the second hitter to pop-out to right for his 6th save of the year.
With the win Azusa Pacific improves to 2-1 against San Marcos this season and 12-5 overall. The two teams will square off again tomorrow for a day-time doubleheader starting at noon in Azusa.