AZUSA, CaIif.-- It wasn’t exactly David knocking off Goliath, but that doesn’t take anything away from Azusa Pacific’s improbable win over first place Grand Canyon on Friday night. Led by a rookie centerfielder, and a pair of freshman hurlers the Cougars beat the Pacific West Conference’s top-ranked team (No. 4 in NCAA West Region Poll) 6-5, getting the go-ahead run on a Mitch Dergazarian RBI single in the bottom of the eighth, before Royal Bradley shut down the Antelopes in the ninth to tie the four-game series at one apiece.
Dergazarian went 4-for-4 in the win, scoring twice and saving a run in an inning-ending double play in the sixth inning. On the play Dergazarian caught a deep fly to center field, and on a line beat Derek Mendoza at the plate to keep GCU from going ahead 5-2. And, as it goes, the defense turned into offense as the Cougars scored twice in the bottom of the frame to tie the game at 4-4 with a double, triple, and home run.
And while the offense tagged one of the PacWest’s top pitchers for four runs, Azusa Pacific’s freshmen duo of Nate Namanny and Bradley limited one of the conference’s top offenses to five runs. Namanny started on the mound, holding the ‘Lopes to four runs in six innings before giving way to Bradley, who held first place Grand Canyon (33-12, 25-7) to just two hits in three innings to collect his first collegiate victory.
“I’m proud of my guys. They’ve been battling all year through adverse moments and today was just another example of them coming out and focusing on one day at a time and one game at a time. Our two freshmen pitchers did a great job of keeping us in the game. Hats off to Royal, what a terrific outing for us to get the win,” said head coach Paul Svagdis after his team’s late-season surge has seen the Cougars nab three wins against teams ranked in the West Region poll.
“As a coach you hope that the players are going to continue to play hard every time they take the field, that’s a process. So to continue to see them play hard day in and day out regardless of the day before is something that these players can hang their hat on and be proud of.”
Azusa Pacific out-hit the ‘Lopes 12-8, and despite squandering multiple opportunities, still provided enough offense for Namanny and Bradley to work with. The Cougars stranded 10 runners, grounding into an inning ending double-play with the bases loaded in the fifth, and leaving three men on in the seventh.
Joel Belk hit his first career home run, a two-run blast into the right field net after Matt Kimmel hit a leadoff triple into deep center field. Belk went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run, and Ryan Henley, Richie Brown, and Brendan Casey each added a hit and an RBI against Coley Bruns, who came into the game with a 7-1 record and a 1.79 ERA.
GCU struck first with three runs in the second, scoring on a sacrifice fly and a two-run double. The Cougars cut the deficit to one in the third with a Casey double and an RBI ground out from Brown in the third.
A Steven Swingle single put the Antelopes up 4-2 before Bradley stranded runners on second and third with a lineout to center. Azusa Pacific knotted the score at 4-4 on Belk’s homer, and took its first lead of the series when Dergazarian scored on a Henley base hit up the middle.
A GCU sacrifice fly in the eighth tied the game at 5-5, but Dergazarian put the finishing touches on the upset with an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth. In the inning Andrew Carrillo got on base to lead off the inning, and Tyler Putjenter’s sac bunt moved him to second base before Dergazarian knocked a 1-2 offering into centerfield to make it a 6-5 game.
In the top of the ninth Bradley forced two quick flyouts, and after a walk put the tying run at first, caught Harlem Griffiths looking on a 1-2 curve to close out the ‘Lopes.
The victory keeps Azusa Pacific’s bid to win its first-ever PacWest series alive entering Saturday’s doubleheader with GCU. The first pitch is slated for 11 a.m.