AZUSA, Calif.-- The way they’re playing, they may never want to leave. On Thursday the Azusa Pacific baseball team improved to 6-0 at home this season with its fourth straight win after sweeping Academy of Art in emphatic fashion to open the Pacific West Conference season.
The Cougars exploded for 27 runs in the sweep, defeating the Urban Knights 9-1 in game one before posting an 18-1 drubbing of Art U in the nightcap, with 13 different players recording a hit in the team’s two highest scoring outputs this season.
Seven separate Cougars had multiple hits on Thursday, and Azusa Pacific tallied 29 hits in the two games. Domenic Biagini tabbed a pair of hits, including a sixth inning grand slam in game two, while Joe Huthsing and Danny Martin each blasted their second home runs of the season.
“I thought it was a complete day for us. The guys did a good job in all areas of the game, and it was nice to see us put that many runs on the board,” said head coach Paul Svagdis.
The Urban Knights (4-10) limited the Cougars (6-4) early on, taking a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the third in game one before the Azusa Pacific bats came alive, scoring in seven of the next nine frames to finish the day with four innings of four or more runs.
Joseph Daris went 5-for-10 with four runs Thursday, and Matt Kimmel and Biagini each drove in a team-high four runs, with Kimmel hitting his first homer of the season in game one. Azusa Pacific hit three homers in the 18-1 victory, the most runs for the Cougars since a 21-5 win against Fresno Pacific on March 9, 2012.
Jordan Brower drove in two runs, batting 4-for-10 on the day, and Ryan Santana went 3-for-4 with two runs in the 9-1 victory. Cam Bennett posted his first hit of the season in game two, and Darryl Miller was within inches of hitting a homer in his first at bat of the season, driving a 1-1 pitch into the left field wall.
And while the offense was on full display Thursday, the Cougars’ dominant pitching continued thanks to a pair of gems from Josh Staumont and Zach Hedges. Azusa Pacific allowed just two earned runs Thursday, and held its opponent to one run or fewer for the fourth consecutive time.
Staumont, fresh off a 15-strikeout performance against Concordia last week, struck out nine batters in eight innings without surrendering a walk to improve to 2-1 on the year. The sophomore gave up a first inning run, but shutout the Urban Knights over the next seven innings of work before giving way to Wyatt Wood, who struck out two in a perfect frame to close out game one.
Staumont allowed 10 hits, although three of them were infield singles, and the La Habra High School product stranded eight Art U base runners.
Hedges was lights out in his first game in over two weeks, giving up only four hits and one walk in seven innings of work. He struck out nine batters, and gave up just one run, giving the sophomore a minuscule ERA of 1.06 after recording his first win of the season.
“They’ve been doing a real good job all year. When you make the other team earn everything it gives you a good shot, so for them to combine for 18 strikeouts and one walk really gives us a good chance. It’s good to see them make the other team work for everything and we’ll be in a good position as long as our pitchers continue to throw strikes,” said Svagdis. “And when our starters came out, the bullpen came in and did well tonight. We had some new guys come in for the first time this season and be effective, and that bodes well for us going forward.”
Seth Gill and Jonathan Velasco each pitched one scoreless inning in the 18-1 win, helping Azusa Pacific lower its ERA to 1.87 on the year.
Azusa Pacific, which has won all six games against Academy of Art in the past two years, will resume its series with the Urban Knights on March 18 due to rain in this weekend’s forecast. The Cougars will return to action next Friday when they open a four-game home series against Holy Names.