HONOLULU, Hawai’i-- The Azusa Pacific baseball team was on the brink of its first doubleheader road sweep of the year in its split with Hawai’i Pacific to open its Pacific West Conference series Saturday. In the first game the Cougars fought back from a two-run deficit with three runs in the ninth to take a two-run lead, but the Sea Warriors countered with three runs of their own in the final inning of a 6-5 win before Azusa Pacific led from start to finish in a 7-3 game two victory.
In the win Azusa Pacific used a four-run third inning to take the lead, and added to its advantage with one in the fourth and two more in the seventh to snap HPU’s nine game winning streak. Josh Staumont picked up his sixth win of the year, striking out six Sea Warrior batters in 6.1 innings of work.
The Azusa Pacific relievers combined for five strikeouts in 2.2 innings, with Mike Fairchild recording his second save of the season. Fairchild struck out the would-be game-tying run with the bases loaded after relieving Wyatt Wood, who K’d three batters in his two innings of work. Hunter Brown also tabbed a scoreless outing, striking out the lone batter he faced.
The Cougars’ 2-4 hitters supplied the offensive power, with Mitch Dergazarian, Matt Kimmel, and Jordan Brower each driving in two runs, while Blake James scored a trio of runs on three hits. Azusa Pacific outhit HPU in each game and combined for 25 hits on the day
Azusa Pacific broke the game open in the third inning, recording five consecutive hits to open the frame. James led off with a single up the middle, and Andrew Carrillo followed that up with a single to left before Joseph Daris’s bunt base hit loaded the bases with no outs. Dergazarian then singled in a pair of runs, and Kimmel’s RBI double to left put Azusa Pacific ahead 3-0. Brower then capped the scoring with his sacrifice fly to center.
HPU responded with two runs in the bottom of the inning, but the Cougars moved their lead back to three runs in the fourth when James’ one out triple set up Carrillo’s sacrifice fly. In the seventh inning the Cougars seemingly put the Sea Warriors away with two more runs, taking a 7-2 lead on Kimmel’s and Brower’s RBI base hits.
Hawai’i Pacific, however, threatened in the bottom of the ninth, loading the bases with two outs, and getting one run across thanks to the Cougars’ third walk of the inning. But Fairchild put to rest any notions of another Sea Warrior comeback with a four-pitch strikeout to seal the win.
The Cougars walked seven batters in the game, but managed to strand 13 Hawai’i Pacific base runners in the win. Staumont stranded eight base runners in his six innings, escaping the first, third, fourth, and fifth innings with two runners on in each of the frames.
In the bottom of the ninth of game one the Sea Warriors led off with back-to-back walks before back-to-back wild pitches plated a run and put the tying run on third with no outs. Another walk put runners on first and third, and a double down the right field line evened the score at 5-5. Azusa Pacific then intentionally walked the next batter and induced a line drive double play, but Hawai’i Pacific clinched the walkoff win with an RBI infield single to take the first game of the series.
Azusa Pacific took its first lead of the game thanks to a three-run ninth inning. In the frame Dergazarian tied things up with a bases loaded RBI single to center, and Brower put the Cougars ahead 5-3 with a two-out, two-run single to score Daris and Sean Aspinall.
In the seventh the Cougars got to within one run when Joe Huthsing drove in Danny Martin, who led off the inning with a double down the left field line.
Joel Belk struck out one batter in eight innings of work, holding the Sea Warriors to only three earned runs despite surrendering 12 hits. The sophomore stranded 10 HPU runners in the game and didn’t allow the leadoff man to reach base until the ninth inning.
Daris went 4-for-4 in the game, scoring twice, while Dergazarian and Brower each had two hits in the opener.
Azusa Pacific will resume the four-game series on Monday, with a chance to win its first road series of the season. The first pitch of the doubleheader is slated for four p.m.