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Cougars Fall In Regional

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Photo by Ken Williams
Danny Gonzales hit a 3-run homer in game one of Thursday's NCCAA West Regional.

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May 8, 2014
Chris Baker
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AZUSA, Calif.-- It wasn’t their day, and it turned out to be their season. The Azusa Pacific baseball team couldn’t get on track in Thursday’s National Christian College Athletics Association West Regional, looking up at deficits of seven and 10 runs in a pair of losses to Fresno Pacific.

The Cougars trailed 8-1 in the third inning of a 9-5 game one loss, and after each team traded four scoreless frames, the Sunbirds erupted for 10 runs over the balance of game’s two’s clinching 10-2 win for FPU. The loss abruptly ends Azusa Pacific’s 2014 season, while the Sunbirds advance to next week’s NCCAA World Series in Mason, Ohio.

Azusa Pacific didn’t lead in either game as Fresno Pacific limited the Cougars to only seven runs on 17 hits. Joseph Daris and Danny Gonzales tried to rally the Cougars’ comeback bid in game one, with Daris hitting a solo shot into the right field net and Gonzales launching a 3-run opposite field homer over the left field fence in the fourth inning to take Azusa Pacific’s deficit from 9-1 to 9-5.

The Cougars, however, couldn’t muster any more runs despite loading the bases with one out in the seventh, and putting runners in scoring position in six of the nine innings. Azusa Pacific hit into three double plays in game one, and stranded 13 batters between the two games.

Daris finished with four hits, three runs, and an RBI in the doubleheader, while Gonzales drove in a team-high three runs. Matt Kimmel tallied four hits in his final day as a Cougar, while fellow senior Dusty Sanderson added three hits.

Joel Belk held the Sunbirds to two hits through the first four innings of game two, but the Sunbirds broke the 0-0 stalemate in the fifth inning with one run on two hits. Fresno Pacific then added another run in the sixth, and broke the game open in the seventh, with seven runs on seven hits to push a 2-0 lead into a 9-0 advantage.

Azusa Pacific got two runs in the top of the eighth after Sanderson scored on a wild pitch, and Kimmel plated Daris on an RBI groundout to third. But the Cougars were simply in too big a hole to push the best of three series to a deciding game on Friday.

In game one Fresno Pacific got a quick start with four runs in the first inning, and went ahead 8-1 with four more runs in the third. The Cougars tried to keep it close, scoring in the first on Daniel Martin’s sacrifice fly, and getting another run on Daris’ homer in the third. Gonzales’ homer in the fourth turned what looked like a blowout into a ballgame, but that was where the Cougar comeback ended. Over the next five innings FPU’s J.D. Salles and Michael Rodrigues shutout the Azusa Pacific offense to give the Sunbirds a crucial game one win.

Azusa Pacific, which finished in second place in the Pacific West Conference standings at 20-12, close out the 2014 season with a 28-23 mark.