AZUSA, Calif.-- Both teams were feeling generous in Monday’s Pacific West Conference doubleheader, but Hawai’i Pacific may have taken charity to a new level. Holding onto a 5-3, one-out lead in the bottom of the seventh inning in game two, the Sea Warriors turned a routine RBI groundout into one of the wackiest endings you’ll ever see.
With the bases loaded Brendan Casey hit a dribbler to second base in what appeared to be a simple 4-3 ground out. But the second baseman bobbled it, rushed his throw, and zooed it by first base to allow Jason Plowman to follow Andrew Carrillo past home plate to tie the game at 5-5. Then, with the play still live, the Sea Warriors’ first baseman frantically picked up the ball and zipped it past the catcher at home plate, allowing Dusty Sanderson to sprint home for the rare walk-off E3 to ignite a raucous celebration at the plate, just as everyone else in attendance was left dumbstruck by what they’d just witnessed.
“I haven’t seen anything like it. That was crazy. When you get the winning run to the plate good things can happen. We just didn’t expect it to be a groundball to second base. It was good base running all the way around. I thought the guys did a good job of being aggressive, and Matt Venegas did a good job of sending the guys,” said head coach Paul Svagdis after his team gave away a 7-0 lead in a 15-10 game-one loss before recording the improbable walk-off win. “Baseball’s an unforgiving sport. I felt like we gave them the first game, and they reciprocated in game two. I felt like with the way we came out in game one you’d have a higher expectation to come away with a win, but baseball’s wacky.”
In the win Azusa Pacific scored five runs in the final frame, on one hit. The Cougars got a leadoff homer from Ryan Henley, and after two hit batters and a walk Tyler Putjenter cut the deficit to 5-3 on a sac fly to center field. The Sea Warriors allowed the winning run to reach first base when they walked Sanderson before Casey ended the game with his grounder to second to as Hawai’i Pacific did all it could to ensure the Cougars came away with a victory.
“Henley really jump started it for us with his homer. It created a little doubt in the opponents’ eyes. It gave our guys confidence, and now you know you can get the winning run to the plate. And when that happens I’m usually thinking of it going into the net, not an infield grounder. I thought the second baseman made a good decision, but he just misfired on the throw, and fortunately for us our runners took advantage,” said Svagdis.
Joel Belk recorded his second win of the year, going the whole seven innings. The freshman right hander was roughed up for four runs in the third, but responded in impressive fashion to hold the Sea Warriors scoreless over the final four frames. He gave up four earned runs, and struck out three batters while stranding five runners, including three in the seventh.
“I thought Belk did really well. He had a tough inning, but made adjustments and won the game for us. That was our goal today. We have such a tough week ahead that we’re trying to go by committee in the first game, and get a complete game from one of our starters in game two. I was happy with how he went out there and battled,” said Svagdis.
Belk’s most impressive inning, was his final one, when he stopped a two-out rally to get an inning-ending strikeout with the bases loaded. The Sea Warriors had a pair of quick outs, but got two singles and a walk before Azusa Pacific escaped unscathed. Hawai’i Pacific scored all five of its runs with two outs, getting four straight RBI base hits in the third inning on a two-out rally.
And while Belk pitched well, Carrillo helped keep the Sea Warriors from stretching their lead with impressive defensive work at short stop. After Wade Tamaru hit a leadoff triple in the top of the fourth, Carrillo, playing in to prevent another HPU run, made a leaping grab on a Jordan Oshiro liner to keep Hawai’i Pacific from going ahead 6-1. The next batter, with the infield still playing in, hit a sharp grounder between second and third, but Carrillo snared it, held the runner to third, and gunned down Derek Nakasato at first before Belk forced a weak grounder to second to get out of the jam.
Carrillo wasn’t finished, opening the next inning with a diving catch to his left on a screaming line drive from Codey Ellenwood. The freshman shortstop went 1-for-1 with a run in the win, while Henley batted 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI. Casey opened the scoring with a solo home run in the second inning, and
In the game one loss, Azusa Pacific opened on a tear, scoring seven runs in the first two innings, and finished with 10 runs in 17 hits. Putjenter recorded a team-high three RBIs, going 4-for-6, while Casey and Richie Brown tabbed two RBIs apiece.
In the first Casey kicked off the scoring with a two-out home run, and Matt Kimmel followed it up with a one-run double to right field. In the second Azusa Pacific had four straight hits, and took advantage of two Hawai’i Pacific errors to go up 6-0 before Brown hit an RBI double down the right field line. The Sea Warriors then got out of the inning on a double-play line drive to third, and that was the beginning of the end for the Cougars’ offense.
In the next inning HPU scored three runs on one hit as Azusa Pacific walked three batters, and hit another, in the frame to make it a 7-3 affair. The Cougars got one back in the third on an RBI single from Putjenter, but the Sea Warriors unleashed an offensive onslaught in the fourth to tie the game with five runs, assisted by two more walks and a hit batter. In the top of the fifth HPU added three more runs to take the lead for good, and added one more in the seventh, and three in the ninth to register the serioes opening victory.
Azusa Pacific gave away first base 12 times in the loss, walking 10 batters, and hitting two more, while committing three errors. Kyle Pine, Royal Bradley, and Caleb Badder were the few bright spots for Cougar pitching. Pine started the game, recording a strikeout in a scoreless first before giving way to Bradley, who forced two groundouts in a perfect second inning. Badder closed things for the Cougars, holding the Sea Warriors scoreless in one inning of work.
Azusa Pacific will face the Sea Warriors in another 3 p.m. doubleheader on Tuesday before closing out its home slate with three straight dates with Grand Canyon (Ariz.), beginning with senior day on Thursday at 5 p.m.