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Cougars Counter With Comeback

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Photo by Holly Magnuson
Jordan Brower's sixth inning home run knotted the score at 3-3 and ignited Azusa Pacific;s comeback bid.

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May 2, 2014
Chris Baker

AZUSA, Calif.-- Jordan Brower hit a game-tying homer in the sixth, and the Azusa Pacific baseball team added two more runs in the seventh to even its Pacific West Conference series against No. 17 ranked California Baptist with a 5-3 victory over the Lancers Friday

The Cougars (27-20; 19-11) trailed twice, but quickly countered each of the Lancers’ (37-12; 19-11) scoring frames in the bottom of the fifth and sixth before grabbing their first lead of the series in the seventh, while junior reliever Josh Grajeda shut down California Baptist’s bats with 3.1 scoreless innings to pick up his second win of the year.

“I was proud of the guys today. They’re a great team and they’ll be in the NCAA playoffs and could even be the top seed in the West. Today was big for the guys. It’s been a long week with finals so it’s nice to get back home and get a win at Cougar stadium,” said head coach Paul Svagdis.

After four scoreless innings California Baptist got to starter Joel Belk for one run in the top of the fifth. The Cougars, however leveled the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the frame. Matt Kimmel led off with a single up the middle, and Joe Huthsing reached on a catcher’s interference to put runners on first and second with one out. A failed pickoff moved both runners over, and Blake James’ groundout to short scored Kimmel.

The Lancers regained the lead in the sixth with two runs on three hits, and pressed for more with the bases loaded with two outs. But Grajeda relieved Belk, and forced a quick pop out to third to strand a trio of Lancers and keep Azusa Pacific’s deficit at two runs. Belk struck out four batters in 5.2 innings, and gave up two earned runs while allowing eight hits.

In the bottom of the sixth the Cougars fought back, getting a leadoff single from Danny Martin before Brower sent an 0-1 offering over the right field fence to knot the score at 3-3.

“Jordan’s homer was huge, especially after they went up two. He’s had big hits and has driven in big runs for us this year, and that was as big as they come,” said Svagdis.

After a 1-2-3 inning from Grajeda Azusa Pacific continued its run in the bottom of the seventh inning. James led off with a single to center and advanced to second on Dusty Sanderson’s sacrifice bunt. The Cougars then grabbed their first lead of the day on Joseph Daris’s drag-bunt single, which CBU’s pitcher picked up and tossed over the first baseman to plate James, pushing the score to 4-3.

The Cougars then added to their lead with Martin’s single to left center, which the Lancer centerfielder let slip past him and roll to the wall to score Daris and push the Azusa Pacific advantage to 5-3. Martin batted 2-for-3 in the win and scored one run.

“Danny had a big hit for us today. He’s playing through injuries and I have a lot of respect for what he’s doing every day. It shows a lot about his character and the type of player he is,” said Svagdis.

Over the next two innings Grajeda limited CBU to one hit, clinching the victory with a foul out behind home plate to keep the Cougars even with the Lancers at second place in the PacWest standings.

Azusa Pacific outhit the Lancers 10-9, with Kimmel’s three hits pacing the team. Daris and James each ahd one hit and scored a run, while Brower hit his team-leading eighth home run of the season.

Azusa Pacific and California Baptist will close out the regular season with a double header on Monday at noon, before the Cougars compete in the National Christian College Athletics Association tournament nest weekend.