OAKLAND, Calif.-- It’s become the norm over the past two weeks, and unfortunately for the Azusa Pacific baseball team, it came a little too late in the season. On Thursday the Cougars used their patented late-game heroics, getting a go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth inning of a 6-4 game one win, before scoring five times in the seventh to overcome a 3-2 deficit in a 7-3 game two victory. The Cougars, who split their two Pacific West Conference series last week, secured at least their third in a row going into the finale on Friday.
Freshman catcher Joe Huthsing put the Cougars over the hump in game one with his two-run bomb in the eighth inning (first of his career), and freshman Joel Belk put Azusa Pacific ahead in game two with a two-run seventh inning single to help the team to its seventh win in the last 11 games.
In game two the Cougars looked primed for the sweep behind an impressive start from Nate Namanny, but a sixth inning, two-run home run snapped the freshman’s four-inning hitless streak and gave Academy of Art (8-40, 5-29) a 3-2 lead to put the win in jeopardy. Prior to the homer Namanny had gone through 17 batters without surrendering a hit.
But the Cougars responded in the same fashion they’ve been accustomed two over the past two weeks, tying the game on a throwing error, and getting a bases loaded two-run single from Belk to open the flood gates. Azusa Pacific scored five runs on two hits in the seventh, taking advantage of two Art U errors.
Matt Kimmel’s fourth inning home run gave Azusa Pacific a 2-1 edge, breaking a 1-1 tie after the Urban Knights scored an unearned run in the third. Belk opened the scoring with a groundout RBI in the second inning.
Caleb Badder registered his second career win earlier in the day, tossing 2.2 innings of relief to give the freshmen pitchers 11 of the staff’s 17 victories, before fellow rookie Royal Bradley notched his first career save with two shutout innings.
Art U went ahead 1-0 in the first, but a four-run third inning, highlighted by a two-out, two-run double by Ryan Henley, put the Cougars ahead 4-1. The Urban Knights tied it in the fifth with four hits
Azusa Pacific finished with seven hits, with Tyler Putjenter and Joel Belk leading the way with two apiece. Huthsing and Henley paced the Cougars with two RBIs each, while six different players scored in the win. Badder walked just one batter, facing only nine hitters in 2.2 innings of relief.
Bradley picked up his first career save, notching two strikeouts in two innings while limiting the Urban Knights to one hit. Jason Plowman started for the Cougars, giving up one earned run in two innings.
Belk’s two-out base hit setup Hutshing’s first career home run, as the freshman sent a first-pitch offering over the left field wall to give Azusa Pacific the lead for good.
A three-run fifth inning for the Urban Knights knotted the score at 4-4. In the frame Art U had a pair of hits to lead things off before a sac bunt put runners on second and third with one out. Then two straight singles provided the Urban Knights with three runs before Badder entered the game to stop the bleeding with a flyout and a groundout.
Azusa Pacific took its first lead of the day in the third, taking advantage of a crucial fielding error to tag Art U for four runs (three unearned). Kimmel tied the game with an RBI fielder’s choice, and Henley doubled to left to plate two more runs before Belk capped the scoring with an RBI single up the middle.
In the first inning the Urban Knights used small ball to get their first run across, getting a leadoff single, stolen base, sacrifice bunt, and a base hit to left to go up 1-0.
Azusa Pacific will play in its final two games of the season, wrapping up the 2013 campaign with a 10 a.m. doubleheader with the Urban Knights on Friday morning.