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Cougars Drop GSAC Opener

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Photo by Ken Williams

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Published
May 1, 2012
By
Chris Baker
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AZUSA, Calif.-- It’s hard to beat a team three times, or so the saying goes. In game one of the Golden State Athletic Conference postseason tournament the NAIA’s 4th ranked Cougars found out just how difficult it would be to defeat Westmont for the sixth time this year as Azusa Pacific suffered its biggest loss since the second day of the season, falling to the Warriors (23-25-1) 12-5. Westmont hit four home runs and matched Cal State San Bernardino for the most runs a team has put up against the Cougars’ (41-10) this year; all in a three inning span that saw a 3-0 Azusa Pacific edge turn into a 12-3 deficit by the 4th inning.

2012 all-GSAC performer Michael Finnigan had his toughest outing of the season, giving up three bombs and seven earned runs in 2.2 innings to take his first loss with the Cougars (6-1). Matt Winkler, who has been one of Azusa Pacific’s best relievers of late, didn’t fare much better, allowing five earned runs on four hits in 1.1 innings of work.

On the offensive end GSAC Player of the Year Jordan Leyland hit a three run shot in the top of the 1st to give Azusa Pacific an early lead, but that was about as dangerous as the potent Cougar offense got. Azusa Pacific registered nine hits, but stranded four base runners and hit/ran into three double plays. Leyland finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs, while J.C. Aguayo and Trevor Lothrop each drove in a run.

Westmont’s Coby Cress and David Gabel each had four RBIs and a home run, while Mitch Petrak hit his first homer of the year, a bomb that cleared the left field net. The Warriors finished with 11 hits, and 12 RBIs while leaving just two on base.

Lost in the mess of a 12-5 loss was an impressive pitching performance from Cameron Ross. The senior gave up just two hits in five innings, and held the Warriors scoreless after they put 12 runs on the board through four innings. He struck out three batters and didn’t record a walk while throwing 41 of his 61 pitches for strikes and facing just 16 batters.

The Westmont win broke a string of four straight comebacks for the Cougars against the Warriors. After the first inning Leyland ended a five game streak where Westmont struck first, driving in Sammy Soyring and Brent Warren on a 2-2 offering from Timothy Leary. In the top of the 2nd the Warriors tied it up on a pair of home runs off Finnigan.

Then in the 3rd Westmont tacked on five more runs on three hits and one Azusa Pacific error. After loading the bases on a single and two walks the Warriors plated a pair of runners on a double from Leary. After another run for the visitors Gabel capped the inning with a two-run homer to left field. All three of the home runs Finnigan gave up were against right handed batters, keeping his homerless clip against lefties alive.

Westmont added on five more in the 4th when Hunter Christenson led off with a home run off Winkler before the Warriors added two more hits and four more runs to take a 12-3 lead. Azusa Pacific put one run on the board in the 6th when Aguayo hit a homer over the left field net, and added another when Lothrop hit a soft line drive into center field to score Matt Kimmel.

With the loss top-seeded Azusa Pacific moves to the loser’s bracket where the Cougars will face the loser of game two (Concordia/Fresno Pacific) on Wednesday at 11 a.m. Westmont, which is making its first postseason appearance in 15 years, advances into the winners bracket where the Warriors will face the winner of game two on Wednesday at 2:15 p.m.