SAN DIEGO, Calif.-- With the Golden State Athletic Conference title already locked up the NAIA’s 4th ranked Azusa Pacific posted a road split on Friday against last place Point Loma Nazarene. The Cougars, who have been comeback artists of late, overcame a three-run and a two-run deficit in game one, before falling to the Sea Lions on a walk-off balk in the 13th inning before Azusa Pacific (39-9; 26-4) registered a 3-1 win behind a gem from Jacob Cage in game two.
In the win Cage allowed just five hits and one run (unearned) in six innings. He struck out four Point Loma Nazarene (18-29; 10-20) batters without recording a walk and was economical with his pitches, averaging just 11 per frame (66 total), throwing 42 for strikes. The Sea Lions notched just one hit through four innings and didn’t register an extra base hit in the game as Cage improved to 7-1 in his sophomore campaign.
With a two-run lead in the bottom of the final inning (7th) the Cougars handed the ball to Alan Garcia, who posted his Azusa Pacific single-season record 14th save after walking just one batter. Garcia now paces the GSAC in saves and ranks second nationally, trailing the NAIA leader by just one.
Offensively Brent Warren led the charge, doubling home Sammy Soyring in the top of the 1st before bunting in Anthony Rodriguez on a squeeze play in the 3rd. Warren finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Azusa Pacific got its third run on a solo shot from J.C. Aguayo in the top of the 4th before Point Loma Nazarene got on the board in the 5th on an errant throw by Daniel Shouldice on a stolen base attempt with runners on first and third. Aguayo finished 2-for-3 while Soyring led the team with three hits.
In game one the Sea Lions jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the 3rd inning. In the 2nd Michael Finnigan registered two quick outs before walking Lucas Diciccio. In the next at bat Tyler Nordgren tallied his first home run of the year to give Point Loma Nazarene a 2-0 edge. In the 3rd Brian Burkhead singled in another run to make it 3-0. Then, with last week’s sweep of Westmont in which the Cougars recorded four straight comeback wins still in mind, Azusa Pacific erased the deficit with three straight one-run frames in the 5th 6th and 7th to tie it at 3-3.
In the 5th Matt Kimmel singled to open things up before Aguayo doubled him in. In the 6th Azusa Pacific led off with back-to-back walks from Warren and Jordan Leyland to set up Kimmel for a sac fly to make it a 3-2 game. Then in the 7th Matt Page doubled with one and later scored on a two out single by Soyring.
But in the bottom of the 7th the Sea Lions took back the lead with two runs on three hits and a Cougar error. Then in the top of the 8th the Cougars again wiped away a Point Loma Nazarene lead on an RBI from Johnathan Erb and a wild pitch that later scored him. From the 9th inning to the 12th both teams managed just a combined three hits as Matt Winkler continued to pitch well in relief. But in the bottom of the 13th Winkler beaned Ricky Gingras and then gave up a one-out single to left field. After a wild pitch put pinch-runner Daniel Hernandez on third base the Sea Lions came away with one of the most unconventional walk-offs as Hernandez was awarded home plate on a balk call against Winkler.
Azusa Pacific out-hit Point Loma Nazarene 11-9 in the game, but struck out 11 times while taking just three walks. The Cougars also left 10 runners on base in the game, which was tied for their longest of the season. Azusa Pacific and Concordia played 13 innings in Irvine on March 23 with the Cougars coming away with a 10-6 win on a grand slam from Kimmel.
The game-one loss was just the second series opening defeat the Cougars have suffered in GSAC play this year and it dropped them to 3-1 in extra-inning games. Azusa Pacific will finish its regular season tomorrow with another double header with the Sea Lions before hosting the GSAC tournament on May 1-4 and the NAIA Opening Round on May 10-14.