AZUSA, Calif.-- The Azusa Pacific baseball team has had a lot of pent up aggression, and after more than a week off, the Cougars were more than happy to explode for their most productive offensive day of the season, scoring 22 runs and getting a career-day from their senior second basemen.
After going four-for-five at the plate and being a triple away from the cycle in the opening game of Monday’s double header, Ryan Henley added a home run, single, and two RBIs in game two as Azusa Pacific got its first double-header sweep in the Pacific West Conference, beating Hawai‘i Hilo 14-2, and 8-1 on Monday. Henley scored five runs and drove in another six on the day, tripling his season RBI total and pushing his batting average back to over .300.
"I’m really happy for Ryan," head coach Paul Svagdis said. "He really swung well and got our offense going today. It wasn’t only exciting for us as a team, but I’m happy for him individually. He’s a hard worker, a great teammate, and it was nice to see him get some outcome from his process."
Henley's four hits, combined with a complete game from Zach Hedges helped the Cougars to a 14-2 win in game one. Then in game two, third baseman Brendan Casey went 3-for-3 and freshman Nate Namanny threw a one-run complete game as the Cougars posted an 8-1 defeat of the Vulcans (5-23-1).
In game one Azusa Pacific (7-17) broke game one open in the third inning with a five-run frame to take a 7-1 lead. The Cougars got the first two batters on base with a hit batsman and a single, but Vulcan pitcher Dane Kinoshita looked prime to escape unscathed with a pop up and strikeout. Henley, however, doubled to plate both runners, before scoring a Tyler Putjenter double. Matt Kimmel followed that up with a single to put runners on first and third, and short stop Dusty Sanderson cleared the bases with a double to give the Cougars a 7-1 advantage.
Putjenter, Kimmel, and Sanderson all had three hits, while Joe Huthsing and Danny Gonzalez each added two hits in the Cougars’ best offensive performance all season. Hedges picked up his second win of the year, throwing all nine innings and striking out eight batters.
"Hedges did a great job," said Svagdis. "He was consistent, and really had to work at getting guys out today and that was very impressive. He did a good job of getting himself out of innings. He’s a workhorse for us. He's got a great mentality in terms of his focus on the hill and he showed that today. He knew we needed a big outing from him to get rolling and he did a good job."
After giving up a solo shot that cut the Cougars’ 2-0 lead in half in game two in the top of the fourth inning, the Cougars quickly turned things around and extended their lead to 6-1. After Namanny walked the following batter, Sanderson and Henley turned a double play, before a ground out to Henley ended the inning for the Vulcans. When the Cougars came up the plate, Richie Brown reached base when he was hit by a pitch and eventually scored on a two-run blast by Henley.
"I was looking fastball, and seeing the ball well," Henley said. "It’s always good to see the ball and get some looks in, and that can only help you at the plate. This was a good day. It was fun being out with my teammates. Every week I’ve been seeing the ball a lot better.”
The Cougars offense wasn’t finished. Putjenter and Kimmel each singled and advanced into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Sanderson. Casey then doubled into leftfield, driving both runners in to give the Cougars a 6-1 lead.
Despite walking six batters, Namanny held the Vulcans to only one run as he picked up his second win of the season and first career complete game.
"I’m proud of Nate," Svagdis said. "I think we have to limit the amount of guys we put on for free. We made some plays and got out of some innings. Pitching in a competitive environment, and getting a double play ball with the bases loaded in a one-run game is a testament to his toughness. We were happy with the way he competed."
Dominic Biagini hit his second home run of the season in game two and finished the game two-for-four at the plate, continuing to be one of the Cougars’ hottest hitters in the last several weeks. Huthsing caught all 16 innings for the Cougars, leading both of Azusa Pacific’s starting pitchers to complete game victories, while getting a pair of hits at the plate and coming around to score twice.
The Cougars wrap up the four-game series against Hawai‘i Hilo tomorrow with a double-header at noon. With the wins, the Cougars are now 7-17 overall and 5-9 in the PacWest Conference. The Cougars also have a pair of home double-headers on Friday and Saturday against Dixie State.