RIVERSIDE, Calif.-- For two straight days California Baptist showed off the PacWest’s most potent offense, scoring 23 runs in a pair of convincing wins to open the four-game weekend series. But on Saturday Joel Belk didn’t have much trouble with the Lancers’ bats, shutting out CBU in seven masterful innings of work to lift the Azusa Pacific baseball team to a 1-0 game one win before the Cougars fell 4-3 in game two of a doubleheader in Riverside.
Belk limited a Lancer team that beat up Cougar pitching to the tune of 37 hits on Thursday and Friday to just three hits in Saturday’s lighting fast win (one hour, 15 minutes). Making the feat even more impressive is that he did it knowing that the first run he gave up might be enough to push the Lancers over the top because in the other dugout David Herd was matching him zero for zero.
Azusa Pacific’s offense, however, gave Belk all he would need, scoring its lone run on a Domenic Biagini RBI single to right in the sixth inning to seal the team’s 10th win of the year.
Belk struck out seven batters and didn’t allow a walk, while recording one of the most dominating performances of the season. The Lancers, who entered the day averaging over seven hits a game, saw one of their three hits erased on a double play and had only one runner make it past second base.
“I thought he did a terrific job. He was pretty dominant most of the game, and kept the ball down in the zone. It was without a doubt one of the best starts we’ve had this year, maybe in the last few years,” said head coach Paul Svagdis. “It was a pretty awesome performance, especially considering the fact that we were facing one of the best hitting teams we’ll see all year.”
Belk retired the first 13 batters he faced, bringing a perfect game into the fifth inning before Blair Moore doubled to left and advanced to third prior to an inning ending flyout. The Lancers got two more hits in the sixth inning, the first of which was nullified on a 6-3 double play, and struck out twice in the final frame as Belk registered his first collegiate win.
The Cougars tabbed only four hits, also getting their first in the fifth inning on a Brendan Casey single. In the sixth inning Azusa Pacific recorded three hits, the first of which came on a Joe Huthsing single to left-center. Dusty Sanderson moved Huthsing over to third on a base hit to center field, and a Biagini single to right provided the only run of the game.
Azusa Pacific struck out four times, and didn’t walk as both pitchers were in complete control, combining to throw 118 of their 162 pitches for strikes.
In game two Azusa Pacific built up a 3-0 lead in the first two innings, but a three-run homer, the Lancers’ eighth of the series, knotted the game at 3-3 in the fifth. CBU tacked on the go-ahead run on a two-out Ryan Cathers RBI single to center before Michael Finnigan helped the Cougars escape from a bases-loaded jam to end the inning.
Nate Namanny started for Azusa Pacific, pitching 4.2 innings and holding the Lancers scoreless through the first four frames. California Baptist registered only four hits in the first four innings, but exploded for four runs and six hits in the fifth to end the Cougars’ string of 13 scoreless innings.
Danny Gonzales opened the scoring in the first inning, singling in Sanderson to put Azusa Pacific up 1-0. In the second inning Casey led off with a base hit to center, and advanced to second on a Ryan Henley single. Tyler Putjenter then doubled in Casey before Henley made it a 3-0 game on a wild pitch. Henley and Putjenter each logged two hits in the loss, while Gonzales went 1-for-2 with two walks.
The Cougars, who have played in 24 consecutive Pacific West games, will take a conference break this week when they travel to Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State San Marcos, and UC San Diego for three non-conference contests beginning on Tuesday at 3 p.m.