ST. GEORGE, Utah-- The Azusa Pacific baseball team picked up a crucial win over No. 21 ranked Dixie State Saturday morning, overcoming a two-run deficit to secure a series split with a 5-2 win over the first place Red Storm. Sophomore pitcher Joel Belk went the distance in the win, battling back from a pair of early unearned runs to stifle Dixie State (26-13, 20-4) over the balance of the final six scoreless innings.
The Cougars (20-12, 13-7) trailed 2-0 after three innings, but scored five runs in the final three frames, with Mitch Dergazarian’s game-winning RBI bunt putting Azusa Pacific ahead 3-2 in the eighth. Matt Kimmel, Joe Huthsing, and Blake James also added RBIs in the win, helping the Cougars outhit the Red Storm 12-7 Saturday.
Belk had the weekend’s most impressive start, picking up his fourth win of the year after allowing only seven hits with no earned runs in the victory. The sophomore walked just one batter and struck out two against one of the Pacific West Conference’s toughest lineups, and finished the game strong with two no-hit innings to clinch the victory.
He then sealed the win in the ninth, recording three quick outs to close the game and give Azusa Pacific its 20th win of the season.
In the top of the eighth Azusa Pacific took its first lead of the game when Dergazarian’s one-out squeeze play scored Andrew Carrillo, who led off the inning with a base hit to left. Joseph Daris’ single through the right side put runners on first and third, and the centerfielder later scored on Kimmel’s RBI single up the middle.
Azusa Pacific added to its lead when Daris reached on a fielding error to second, which plated Huthsing, who led off with a single to left field.
Dixie State grabbed an early 1-0 lead with one hit and a Cougar error in the bottom of the first. The Red Storm then added to it in the third, scoring its second unearned run of the game after a leadoff fielding error.
Jordan Brower, Sean Aspinall and Huthsing had two hits apiece to pace Azusa Pacific, with Brower, Danny Gonzales, Daris, Hutshing, and Carrillo each scoring in the victory.
Belk stranded six Red Storm runners on base, and allowed only one runner to advance past second over the final five innings. The sophomore now paces Azusa Pacific’s starters with a 1.62 ERA on the year, and holds two of the team’s six complete games this season.
Azusa Pacific, which picked up its first road split of the season, will continue its lengthy road trip when it travels to Hawai’i for an eight game stretch against Hawai’i Pacific and Hawai’i Hilo, beginning Friday.