AZUSA, Calif. --
5 run first inning
Pitching is solid again
Formula for wins
As perhaps the most recognizable form of poetry this side of a Shakespearean sonnet, the preceding haiku tells the story of Azusa Pacific’s 8-2 win over Whittier, Wednesday, under the lights at Cougar Field.
The Cougars (3-1) got a good start from Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who allowed 1 run in 4 innings of work before being removed because of pitch count considerations. In the top of the first he got into trouble before working his way out of a jam.
The Poets (0-1) could not have scripted a better start if they had William Blake and his quill pen writing the details. Charles Acker singled to open the game and Greg Garchar followed with a walk as the first 2 men reached base. However, Nieuwenhuis helped his own cause with a nice play on a ball hit back towards him by Pete Aiello. Nieuwenhuis quickly scrambled off the mound and played the ball off a hop as he moved toward the third base line. He then swung around and fired a strike to James O’Neill at third to force out Acker.
The freshman right hander then struck out Matt Morgado looking before getting Tomio Mack to ground out.
“His had some good innings for us tonight,” said head coach Paul Svagdis. “He did a good job of battling. It is tough out there as a freshman.”
Nieuwenhuis (1-0) benefited from a 5 run outburst by the offense in the bottom of the first inning against the Poets’ starter, Tom Vessella (0-1).
Dwight Nixon led off the first with a walk before moving to second on a passed ball. Scott Hodsdon followed with a deep drive off the fence in left centerfield that resulted in double with Nixon moving over to third.
Nixon then dashed home on a passed ball setting up All-American Stephen Vogt who ripped a ball back up the middle to score Hodsdon and give the Cougars a 2-1 lead that they would not relinquish.
After Vessella got an out, Coba Canales hit a ball through the hole on the right side moving Vogt up to second base. Then Svagdis, staying true to his word that his team would run more in 2006, had Vogt and Canales double steal putting 2 runners in scoring position for Chris Cardinale, who came into the game leading the team with a .425 average.
He promptly lined a ball into centerfield for a 2-run single putting Azusa Pacific ahead 4-0. The Cougars added their final run when Cardinale advanced to third on a wild pitch and Poet catcher Mack winged the ball 5 feet wide of the bag and into left field allowing him to come in to score.
“Anytime you get a lead it’s nice because it gives the hitters confidence,” said Svagdis. “We had some execution mistakes that we need to work on but our hitters put pressure on them.”
From there it was another solid performance from the Azusa Pacific bullpen which featured Garrett Lebsock throwing a scoreless fifth and sixth innings. Jason Madsen, Brad Boekestein and Christian Gagne limited Whittier to 1 run over the final 3 innings.
After Vogt knocked in a run on a fielder's choice in the sixth, Canales completed the scoring for the Cougars when he tripled to right center driving in a pair of runs to make it 8-1.
With the win, Azusa Pacific defeated Whittier for the eighth consecutive time.
The Cougars will next face a stiff challenge when they travel to Biola to face the defending GSAC champion Eagles as they open up conference play in a doubleheader set to begin on Saturday at 11 a.m.