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Chasing Down the Sunbirds

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Published
February 17, 2006
By
Jason Cannon
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AZUSA, Calif. -- Fresno Pacific visited Cougar Field for the first time in program history on Thursday and, after watching its pitching staff give up 22 runs on 23 hits to Azusa Pacific, perhaps it won’t mind if another trip isn’t scheduled until next season.

The Cougars (6-2, 3-1) bats came alive early in both games of the twinbill and they rode those leads to a pair of wins, 8-5 in the first game and 14-8 in the nightcap.

Guy McDowell (2-1) followed up his solid outing against Biola with a good start in the first game. He threw 7 innings allowing 2 runs while striking out 4. His ability to go deep into the game was beneficial for the Cougars bullpen in the second game because of a short start by Andrew Abell.

“He did a real good job,” said head coach Paul Svagdis of McDowell. “His offspeed stuff was a little better so he didn’t have to rely so much on his fastball. Today he got some guys out that way.”

McDowell also benefited from early run support. The Cougar offense quickly went to work in the bottom of the first inning against Sunbird starter Zach Darrah. Chris Cardinale, who had hits in both games to extend his hitting streak to 8 games, led off with a single and advanced all the way to third when the ball was overrun in centerfield by Andy Locke. Scott Hodsdon then tripled into the gap in left center to score Cardinale to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead.

After Stephen Vogt drew a walk, Nick Beghtol drove a ball into right center field that split the outfielders and rolled through the alley to the wall. Hodsdon scored easily and Vogt stopped at third with Beghtol steaming into second with an RBI double. Leading 2-0, Coba Canales lined an RBI single to left giving the Cougars a 3 run frame.

With McDowell throwing up zeros, the Cougars broke the game wide open in the bottom of the fourth inning. Azusa Pacific scored 5 times with the big blow coming off the bat of Vogt who came through with 2 outs by lining a 3-run homer over the right field fence to give the Cougars a 8-0 lead. It was Vogt’s second home run of the season.

In the late innings the Sunbirds battled back scoring in each of the final 3 frames but Christian Gagne closed the door as he earned his first save of the year.

The nightcap was a bit of a struggle for both teams who battled themselves at times as much as the opposition. Both teams committed errors that prolonged scoring chances for the other. Azusa Pacific chalked up a big lead early as they struck for 9 runs in the first 2 innings as it took a 9-2 lead.

In the first inning, Coba Canales’ first home run of the year, a long drive over the left center field wall, highlighted a 3 run outburst that was aided by a Josh Franco wild pitch that plated Cardinale who was at third with 1 out. Beghtol added a sacrifice fly as Abell, the game 2 starter, had a 3-1 advantage as the game moved into the second.

The Cougars then broke the game open with a big inning scoring 6 times in the second. After Fresno Pacific cut the lead to 9-6 in the third inning, Azusa Pacific got another run on a wild pitch and an infield RBI single by Dwight Nixon to push the lead back up to a more comfortable margin, 11-6.

“They did a good job of consistently putting pressure on us,” Svagdis said of the second game. “We didn’t have a clean inning. We were able to steal some bases and Dwight Nixon did a good job base running scoring from first on a hit. It showed hustle and aggressiveness.”

The Cougars stole 6 bases, including a career-high 3 by Canales, as they created opportunities to score and capitalized on them. Azusa Pacific took advantage of many mistakes by the Sunbirds (5-4, 1-3) who committed 4 errors, hit 4 batters, threw 3 wild pitches and twice balked.

Freshman Garrett Lebsock (1-0) picked up the win in relief as he pitched into the sixth inning before giving way.

With the win, the Cougars have won 3 in a row and will look to continue that streak on Friday when they host Claremont Mudd in a doubleheader set to begin at 3 p.m. at Cougar Field.