FRESNO, Calif.-- Azusa Pacific concluded its regular season series with Fresno Pacific on a high note, handing the 17th ranked Sunbirds their first GSAC sweep since 2007 with a pair of two-run victories.
Matt Page, who caught all 16 innings of the doubleheader, drove in the go-ahead run in the 9th inning of game one to lead Azusa Pacific to a 9-7 win before Michael Finnigan tossed a complete game two-hitter in the finale to give the Cougars (18-5, 7-1) a 3-1 victory for the team’s eighth straight win.
Page registered three RBIs on the day, including a solo home run to put Azusa Pacific ahead 6-5 in the top of the 6th. The catcher also had a hand in a critical Sunbird out in the bottom of the 6th when he gunned out Alan Sandoval after he tried to take third base on a two-run double that gave Fresno Pacific a 7-6 edge.
“He was great. He had a real big day for us offensively and caught all 16 innings. I was really proud of his focus level,” said head coach Paul Svagdis of his catcher.
Page, Brent Warren, and Matt Kimmel each tallied two RBIs in the opening game, while Jordan Leyland finished 3-for-5. Azusa Pacific hit three home runs in the 9-7 win and Warren added another triple to his team high total of five.
On the mound Ben Ruder got the start and pitched into the 5th inning before he was relieved by J.C. Aguayo after giving up four earned runs. Aguayo tossed one and a third innings and gave up two runs on five hits, eventually giving the Sunbirds a 7-6 lead after the 6th.
But then after the Cougars tied it at 7-7 with an RBI single from Kimmel, Aguayo faced just one more batter before Jesus Del Roasrio took over. Del Rosario was effective, allowing just one hit in two innings of work prior to handing the ball to Coly Gurney with two outs in the 8th.
With two runners on Gurney served a pitch to Kevin Magill, who popped it up to Anthony Rodriguez for the final out of the frame.
In the top of the 9th Leyland registered a base hit through the left side of the infield and Kimmel advanced him to second base after being hit by a Sunbird pitch. Then Page came up with the biggest hit of the day, recording a two-out double to centerfield to plate Leyland for the go-ahead run. Kimmel gave the Cougars an added cushion by scoring on a passed ball to give Alan Garcia more than enough of a lead to tally his ninth save of the year after.
Gurney got his fourth win of the season despite facing just one batter, and the entire Cougar staff relied on the defense, recording only three strikeouts. The Cougar bats continued their scoring spree with nine runs and 10 hits, but the team also went down on strikes 10 times.
In game two Azusa Pacific used a different route to take its fourth win over the Sunbirds this season behind the arm of Finnigan.
The junior hurler gave up only two hits and one run to improve to 2-0 this year. He struck out six batters in seven innings and the only run he gave up was unearned.
Sammy Soyring led off the game with a single and then advanced to second on a bunt-base hit by Warren. A wild pitch put the runners on second and third, leaving first base open for Leyland. Fresno Pacific pitched around the first baseman, walking him on five pitches to load the bags before a wild pitch put the Cougars’ first run on the board. Kimmel tacked on another one on a grounder to second base, giving Azusa Pacific a quick 2-0 lead.
Finnigan had no problems in the first two innings, but in the third a throwing error put a Fresno Pacific runner on third base, allowing the host team’s first run to score on a sacrifice fly. After that, however, Fresno Pacific would have trouble just getting on base as Finnigan allowed only one hit in the rest of the way.
“It was good to see Finnigan pitch a complete game for us. The fourth game of a series is always a tenuous point because you don’t know how depleted the bullpen is. He did great picking us up, it was good to see that happen,” said Svagdis.
Page added a run in the 4th with his third RBI of the day, as the Cougars won their 15th game in the last 17 to match Concordia for the GSAC lead at 7-1in the conference standings. The four-game sweep of that Fresno Pacific snapped the GSAC’s longest active sweep-less streak in conference play.
“It doesn’t mean anything other than that we’re focused on our process,” said Svagdis. “To get four games from one of the best teams in the division is pretty good, but we have our work cut out for us next week with The Master’s.”
The Cougars host the Mustangs (20-6, 9-3) on Thursday and Friday and travel to Santa Clarita for a double header next Saturday.