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Digging The Long Ball

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Photo by Ken Williams
Jordan Brower hit his second home run of the season in Monday's 8-1 win over Biola.

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Published
February 24, 2014
By
Chris Baker
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AZUSA, Calif.-- The Azusa Pacific baseball team used three home runs and another strong pitching performance to lift the Cougars to an 8-1 win over Biola on Monday night. The Cougars, who came into Monday’s game with just two homers on the season, tabbed a season-high eight runs, with seven of them coming by way of the long ball to improve to 4-0 at home this season (4-4 overall).

Jordan Brower hit his second home run in as many games, sending a two-run shot into the right field net after Daniel Martin hit his first career home run earlier in the fifth to turn a 3-1 lead into a 7-1 Cougar advantage. Sophomore Joe Huthsing hit his second homer as a Cougar in the third, launching a three-run bomb over the left field wall in the third inning to put Azusa Pacific ahead 3-0.

“Our lineup is designed to drive the ball and put it into the gaps, or at least that was the master plan. So playing at home and seeing it work has been nice the past few games,” said head coach Paul Svagdis.

Azusa Pacific tied for a season-high with 13 hits in the win, with Brower leading the way with a 3-for-4, two-RBI performance. Matt Kimmel went 2-for-5, and capped the scoring with a one-run single up the middle in the eighth, while Martin and Huthsing each tallied two hits. Joseph Daris went 1-for-4, and was a terror on the bases, recording three stolen bases and scoring twice.

Azusa Pacific got its 13 hits from eight separate players, and had Biola’s outfield not made three spectacular plays, could have finished with much more. In the first inning Eagles centerfielder Rob Groeschell robbed Andy Bissel of an extra base hit with a leaping cross-shoulder grab in the right center gap, stranding a pair of Cougar runners to end the inning. Then in the fourth Andrew Carrillo drove a sharply hit ball into right field, where the rightfielder made a heads up play and threw out the speedy Carrillo at first base.

“That’s the best outfield I’ve seen all season. That centerfielder made two great plays, and the right fielder made a great play to throw out Carrillo. They didn’t give us anything out there tonight and we were still able to put eight runs up on the board. I think that speaks well for our hitters and their ability to hit the ball in the gaps,” said Svagdis.

Junior southpaw Adam McCreery posted his best start of the season, pitching seven innings of one run ball. The Bonita High School product struck out eight batters, and after walking three batters in the first two frames, settled in nicely thereafter. The Arizona State transfer surrendered only four hits, and induced two inning-ending double plays, including one to halt a first and third Biola (8-14) threat in the second inning.

“What I like about Adam is his ability to pitch through adversity. He struggled early and walked some guys, and then what he did was settle down to get his double play balls going. Then he started to get back into a better groove and pumping strikes. He’s done it a few times this year, where he’s been off, then came back and persevered . It was nice to see him do that today,” said Svagdis.

Freshman Wyatt Wood relieved McCreery in the eighth, and after getting into a jam with runners on first and second with one out, forced two groundouts to keep the Eagles at bay. Michael Fairchild closed out Biola in the ninth, pitching a shutout inning, and inducing an game-ending 6-4-3 double play to seal Azusa Pacific’s second straight win.

The Cougars have given up only 15 earned runs this season, registering a 2.11 ERA through the first eight games, while holding a 60-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Azusa Pacific’s pitching has held opposing hitters to a trim .202 batting average this season, and have yet to allow a home run.

POTENTIAL SCHEDULE CHANGE

With rain in the forecast for Friday and Saturday, Azusa Pacific’s four-game Pacific West Conference opener against Academy of Art may be moved to Thursday and Friday, with a Thursday double header scheduled to start at noon. Follow @APUCougars on Twitter for up to the minute updates.