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Sunbirds Can't Escape Cage

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Photo by Holly Magnuson
Jacob Cage improved to 4-1 after pitching seven strong innings. He allowed two earned runs and had tossed six scoreless frames before Fresno Pacific got three across in the 7th.

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March 8, 2012
Chris Baker
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AZUSA, Calif.-- What began as a pitcher’s battle turned into scoring frenzy as Azusa Pacific opened its four-games series against Fresno Pacific with 14-6 win over the Sunbirds on Thursday night. The Cougars (15-5, 4-1), who were in the midst of a scoreless tie until the bottom of the 4th inning tallied 16 hits and three home runs en route to their 13th win in the last 15 games.

Jacob Cage gave Azusa Pacific another strong performance on the mound as he tossed seven innings and allowed two earned runs while striking out six batters to earn his fourth win of the year. Cage opened the game with six scoreless frames and had allowed just two hits before the Sunbirds got three runs across the plate in a four-hit 7th inning.

“We were facing their No. 1 and he was shutting us down early. For our guy to go out there and trade zeroes gave us some energy,” said head coach Paul Svagdis.

And that energy turned into a game-breaking five-run, five-hit 4th inning that was capped by Matt Page’s fourth home run of the season. Jordan Leyland extended the lead with a grand slam into the right field net in the top of the 8th inning before J.C. Aguayo hit a three-run shot over the left field wall to put the Cougars ahead 14-4 going into the top of the 9th. Leyland went 3-for-4 on the night and scored three times and posted his fourth game this season with 4+ RBIs.

Matt Kimmel had yet another monster night, registering four hits, three runs, and two RBIs to push his hitting streak to 10 games. The sophomore centerfielder leads the team in batting (.488), hits (39), and stolen bases (8) and is slugging .713. Johnathan Erb and Anthony Rodriguez each had two base hits and Brent Warren finished 1-for-5 and scored one run.

Sammy Soyring had a modest day on the stat sheet, going 0-for-2 with two walks and reaching a third time after getting beaned. The Cougars, however, improved to 10-1 with Soyring leading off; something Svagdis has taken note of.

“It starts with your leadoff hitter, he’s a piece of the puzzle. Sammy’s been doing a good job of grinding out pitches,” said Svagdis. “I think when you have a leadoff guy that’s willing to sacrifice and do the little things it makes it very tough to have to pitch to our 2-3-4 hitters.”

Soyring worked to a full count twice in the game and saw 29 pitches in his five plate appearances as he helped wear down Fresno Pacific’s Chris Herrera, who threw 110 pitches in six innings against the Cougar lineup. Seven Azusa Pacific players recorded a hit in the game and six of them had two or more. The Cougars struck out just six times, left only six runners on base and currently boast the GSAC’s second-best scoring offense at 7.6 runs per game.

Fresno Pacific (13-9, 4-5) on the other hand had a difficult time figuring out Cage. The Sunbirds, who scored all of their runs in the final three innings, walked twice and registered only one two-out hit.

“I think the guys did a great job, but it’s just game one of a four-game series. We have our work cut out for us,” said Svagdis. “Fresno Pacific is a good and well-coached team. The slate is clean tomorrow. We have to stay focused on our process each day.”

The Cougars and the Sunbirds square off again tomorrow with the first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m.

Video Highlights (Filmed and Edited by Rob Small)