SANTA CLARITA, Calif.-- Jordan Leyland connected on a go-ahead 3-run home run in the top of the 8th before Alan Garcia shut down The Master’s bats in order in the bottom of the 9th to collect his 10th save of the season as Azusa Pacific posted a 4-3 win over the Mustangs on Monday evening. The victory marked the Cougars’ 10th straight win and 7th straight in Golden State Athletic Conference play as they moved a game and a half up on Concordia atop the GSAC standings. The Cougars improved to 3-0 against the Mustangs (20-9, 9-6) this season, with today’s contest being a makeup of game one of last Saturday’s rain-delayed double header.
Azusa Pacific (21-5, 10-1), which trailed for most of the game with just two hits going into the 8th inning, took its first lead of the day on Leyland’s bomb. Michael Finnigan tossed 6.2 innings, giving up three earned runs on seven hits and three walks to pick up the no-decision, while Colby Gurney grabbed his team-leading fifth win of the season after allowing just one base runner in 1.1 innings. He struck out two batters, including a bases-loaded punch out to end The Master’s bases loaded threat in the bottom of the 7th.
The Cougar bats recorded only four hits in the game, well off their average of 12.1 per game, and struck out 11 times. Brent Warren scored twice and set up Johnathan Erb for an RBI double in the 4th with one of his two stolen bases after reaching on a fielder’s choice. Warren also walked in the 8th following a leadoff pinch-hit single by Trevor Lothrop to set the plate for Leyland’s 12th home run of the season.
Leyland nearly tied the game in the 6th inning with Warren on second base, but the first baseman was robbed when Tanner Leighton made a diving catch on a sinking line drive to shallow center field. But the San Dimas native got the last laugh with his game-winning homer and now leads the GSAC in six offensive categories, including home runs (12), hits (47), batting average (.456), and slugging percentage (.922).
The Mustangs’ starter Charlie Gillies was in the midst of a gem, striking out eight batters and giving up only two hits through seven innings. But the 8th inning spelled doom for the senior as he gave up two hits, one walk, and three runs to earn his third loss of the year.
On the offensive end the Mustangs nearly doubled the Cougars’ hit total, recording seven base knocks, all against Finnigan, in the loss. The Master’s got four lead off hits, but went just 2-13 with runners on base to plate just three of its 11 base runners.
The two teams will conclude their regular season series with an April 2nd meeting in Santa Clarita.
This weekend Azusa Pacific squares off with the reigning NAIA champions and the NAIA’s 2nd-ranked Concordia. The four-game series, which will be a battle between the first and second place teams in the conference, begins on Thursday in Irvine.