AZUSA, Calif.-- It was as dominating as it gets, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Sophomore pitcher Josh Staumont dazzled fans and dizzied hitters with 15 strikeouts in 7.1 innings to lead the Azusa Pacific baseball team to a 6-0 victory over the NAIA’s No. 9 ranked Concordia on Tuesday night to snap the Cougars’ four-game losing streak.
The right hander’s blend of power and touch held the Eagles (13-5) hitless through the first five innings before a one-out single to center ended his no-hit bid in the top of the sixth. And while Staumont was unhittable through the first five innings, he may have been at his best afterwards.
After a wild pitch and a walk put runners on first and second with no outs in the sixth, Staumont collected himself and worked off the dominant fastball he established throughout the first five frames, relying on a devastating breaking ball to fan the next three batters in just 10 pitches to escape Concordia’s first threat of the night.
Azusa Pacific’s pitchers combined for 18 strikeouts in the game, two off of the program-record of 20 set back in 1964, with Luis Martinez striking out the side in the top of the ninth after getting the Cougars out of a one-out bases loaded jam in the eighth with a 1-4-3 inning-ending double play.
“The pitching staff did a great job tonight, and clearly that starts with Staumont. I thought when he really started to get in a groove was when he was getting his breaking ball over the plate. It was pretty tough on their hitters to defend his fastball and face his breaking ball. His best inning was when he got first and second and struck out three straight. It was a big inning, and a turning point for us,” said head coach Paul Svagdis.
“I was real proud of the way Martinez pitched. He got the double play to get out of the jam in a really crucial spot for us, and then he struck the side out to close them out. It was a really nice job from the pitching staff.”
The Cougars (3-4) held Concordia to 1-for-10 batting with runners on base, and gave up only three hits in their first shutout of the season. Staumont, who threw 75 of his 113 pitches for strikes, lowered his ERA to 1.65 with his second win of the year, and pushed his strikeout total to 24 in 16.1 innings this season. The former Biola pitcher, who helped the Eagles combine for a no-hitter in 2013, struck out the side three times on Tuesday night, and put down 10 batters swinging in his third start of the season.
And while Staumont rarely let the Eagles put the ball in play, the Azusa Pacific defense did its part to stifle Concordia’s offense. In the second inning Joseph Daris made a remarkable grab, diving to his right on a dead run to snare a sinking line drive in the left center gap to preserve Staumont’s no-hit bid.
And when runners managed to reach base, Hutshing was there to throw them out. The sophomore catcher cut down two would-be base stealers in the game, and through six games has allowed only one stolen base in six attempts.
“The defense has been good all year, and tonight was no different. We’ve been playing Daris in centerfield lately, and with the play he made tonight you can see why. That catch was great. He’s such a fast guy, and he’s been doing great there. As a team we’ve been playing well defensively and hopefully we can keep that up,” said Svagdis.
Over the past four games Azusa Pacific’s bats have produced only five runs, but on Tuesday the Cougars matched that total in the first three innings, with Jordan Brower and Blake James providing the much-needed offense.
After a Daniel Martin RBI single gave the Cougars a 1-0 lead in the first, Brower sent a first pitch offering over the right field fence to give Azusa Pacific a quick 3-0 advantage after one inning with his first home run of the season. Then in the third frame James drove a double into left center to plate Huthsing and Martin to make it a 5-0 game. Brower and James combined for four RBIs on Tuesday after driving in only one run through the first six games of the season.
”We have a lot of faith in those guys and what they can do at the plate. I was happy to see them go up and get big hits tonight. They set the tone, and they’re really important pieces in our lineup, so obviously we’re excited to see them get going. It’s so early in the season, and we knew it was only a matter of time before they found their rhythm,” said Svagdis.
Azusa Pacific tallied eight hits in the win, with Martin leading the way with two singles and an RBI. Ryan Santana drove in the Cougars’ sixth run of the night on an RBI to left center to plate Huthsing in the eighth inning. Matt Kimmel and Dusty Sanderson also tabbed hits in the win.
Azusa Pacific snapped a four-game losing streak to Concordia with Tuesday night’s victory, and improved to 3-0 at home this season. The Cougars will return to action Monday night against Biola before opening the Pacific West Conference slate against Academy of Art with a four-game home series on Friday and Saturday.
All five games will be streamed live on Azusa Pacific’s live video portal. To access the Cougars’ live video channel Click Here.