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Cougars Power Into GSAC Lead

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Photo by Ken Williams
Brent Warren and Jordan Leyland hit back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the first inning to get Azusa Pacific's offense started in a 13-10 win over The Master's Friday afternoon.

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March 16, 2012
Joe Reinsch
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AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific’s offense picked up where it left off yesterday, scoring in each of the first six innings before holding off a late rally from The Master’s in a 13-10 victory that propelled the Cougars to the top of the Golden State Athletic Conference standings Friday afternoon.

Point Loma Nazarene’s sweep of Concordia in Irvine Friday afternoon opened the door for Azusa Pacific, now 20-5 overall and 9-1 in GSAC play, to claim sole possession of first place in the conference with Concordia dropping into second at 9-3 in conference play.

The Cougars wasted little time in staking their claim as the GSAC front-runner. After scoring seven runs in its final three turns to hit at the end of yesterday’s 10-5 win, Azusa Pacific scored all 13 of its runs Friday in the first six innings, making it a stretch of nine consecutive run-scoring innings over two days for the Cougar offense.

“Any time you start a series at home, you want to get out of the gate well,” Cougar head coach Paul Svagdis said. “To get two wins against a really good team like The Master’s is a good start for us, but we have our work cut out for us tomorrow over at their place. Their yard plays very different, their team is designed to fit that, and so we have to adjust to that.”

Highlighting the offensive fireworks were four home runs, including back-to-back opposite-field solo shots in the first inning from senior rightfielder Brent Warren followed by senior first baseman Jordan Leyland. Junior third baseman Brendan Casey’s three-run shot in the second inning gave Azusa Pacific its third home run and a 5-1 lead with the first eight batters it sent to the plate.

The other home run was delivered by sophomore catcher Matt Page, who smacked a two-run home run to right-center in the sixth inning to give the Cougars a 13-6 lead at the time. Page’s home run was the last of three consecutive extra-base hits, coming after sophomore centerfielder Matt Kimmel and senior designated hitter J.C. Aguayo led off the frame with back-to-back doubles.

“I thought we put a lot of pressure on them in the first six or seven innings by putting runs across the board, but I still think we need to stay a little more focused when we start to extend a lead in the later innings,” Svagdis said. “I felt we had some opportunities that we let slip by that could have made things a little easier on our pitching staff, but I thought the hitters did a nice job overall to grind out runs today.”

The Master’s scored four runs in the eighth, all with two outs, but junior righthander Alan Garcia struck out two Mustang hitters in the ninth inning to pick up his ninth save of the season.

Azusa Pacific’s starting pitcher, freshman Zachary Hedges scattered five runs on 10 hits over five innings to pick up the win and improve to 4-0 on the year, and three relievers combined to close out the win. Junior southpaw Jesus Del Rosario was an out away from finishing up three full innings of relief work, but he walked a pair and gave up two singles in the eighth inning. He was replaced by junior righthander Jason Plowman, who surrendered a bases-clearing double that cut the Cougars’ lead to 13-10 before he got an inning-ending groundout that set the table for Garcia to close out the game in a save situation.

For the second consecutive game, Azusa Pacific had six players register multiple hits, with Warren posting the only three-hit effort for the Cougars. He was three-for-six with three RBIs, and Casey was two-for-three and drove in four runs. Leyland went two-for-three, raising his season batting average to .465, and drove in a pair of runs to add to his GSAC-leading RBI total (39). He also stole two bases, his first two of the season, as the Cougars stole five bases in the contest.

The Master’s was led by Chris Talley, who went three-for-five including his three-run double in the eighth inning. The loss kept the Mustangs, who fell to 20-8 overall and 9-5 in GSAC play, from splitting road games in a GSAC series for the first time this year.

The teams are scheduled to close out their four-game series with a doubleheader at The Master’s Saturday. The start time for the opening game of the twinbill has been changed from noon to 11 a.m.