OAKLAND, Calif.-- For the first time all year the Azusa Pacific baseball team can pull out that old broom from the closet. After winning both ends of a doubleheader against Academy of Art the Cougars register their first-ever Pacific West Conference sweep, drubbing the Urban Knights with a 7-1 win in game one, and competing the season-closing sweep with a 6-4 game two victory.
The Cougars, who end the year riding a season-best five-game winning streak, have won nine of their last 13 games, and ended the up-and-down year with the same type of comeback ball they’ve mastered over the previous two weeks.
Trailing 4-1 through three innings in game two, Azusa Pacific cut the deficit to one in the fourth, and with just two innings left scored three runs in the top of the sixth to go ahead 6-4, securing the team’s lone sweep of the year. Joe Huthsing singled in the go-ahead run after Ryan Henley knotted the game at 4-4 with an RBI base hit to centerfield. The senior second baseman, playing in his final game as a Cougar, also plated a run in the fourth on a single to center to finish with two hits and two RBIs.
Joel Belk collected his third straight win, striking out three and giving up four runs in six innings. Three of the four runs he surrendered came on a bases-loaded double with two outs in the third, and outside of that three-run frame the freshman limited the Urban Knights to only three hits and one run.
The Cougars finished with 12 hits, getting hits from eight of its nine players in the starting lineup. Matt Kimmel went 3-for-4 with two runs and an RBI, while Richie Brown batted 2-for-3 with one RBI.
In game one Hunter Brown had the best start of his career, throwing a complete game while allowing just one earned run. The junior limited the Urban Knights to six hits (five singles), three of which came in the final frame when Art U scored its lone run, and struck out six batters without giving up a walk.
Kimmel led the charge offensively, driving in two runs on a triple in the seventh inning to turn a tight 3-0 contest into a comfortable 5-0 lead for Azusa Pacific. Brendan Casey finished with two hits and two walks to go with an RBI, while freshman short stop Andrew Carrillo went 2-for-3 with two runs and a stolen base.
The Cougars scored runs in the first and second innings, getting a an RBI double from Casey to score Tyler Putjenter in the first, and going up 2-0 on a Huthsing double down the right field line. In the seventh inning Carrillo led off with a base hit to left, and crossed home on a Richie Brown fielder’s choice. Kimmel then tripled in Brown and Casey to give the Cougars a 5-0 advantage.
In the eighth Azusa Pacific grabbed a 7-0 lead after the Art U pitcher threw wide of first, plating Danny Gonzales and Carrillo. In the ninth Stefen Henderson hit a leadoff single for the Urban Knights, and stole second and third before putting Art U on the board on a single up the middle to end Brown’s shutout bid.
The Cougars closed the 2013 season on a tear, registering their first series sweep and winning their last five games. Azusa Pacific went 9-4 down the stretch, splitting with first place Grand Canyon (ranked third in the NCAA West region), and taking two of four against Hawai’i Pacific. Prior to the five-game winning streak the Cougars’ hadn’t won more than two games in a row, and had registered back-to-back wins just twice.
In 2014 Azusa Pacific will compete in its second season of PacWest play in the university’s third-year of NCAA Division II candidacy.