AZUSA, Calif. -- After letting several good scoring opportunities go by the way side earlier in the game, Azusa Pacific needed a big hit with men on base if it wanted to procure a win over Vanguard.
With the bases loaded with coiled Cougars ready to race around the bases on contact, they got the knock they were looking for from Titus Lester. With 1-out and the sacks full, Lester nailed a triple into the alleyway in left centerfield scoring all 3 runs and, with one swing of the bat, turned a 5-4 deficit into a 7-5 lead.
Azusa Pacific would tack on another run and go on to beat Vanguard, 8-5, to earn its fourth win in a row, Wednesday evening at Cougar Field.
The game had several standouts for the Cougars (11-4, 6-1) but no hit was bigger than Lester’s who revived a team that had given up 4 runs in the previous 2 innings to fall behind.
“I wish I could say it was a Joe Torre move putting him in there but he has been doing such a good job pinch hitting for us and working in practice that the coaches were looking for an opportunity to get him in the line-up,” said head coach Paul Svagdis.
The eighth inning started with Derek Craddock coming in to the game in relief of Matt Franco for the Lions (6-8, 2-5) who did a tremendous job in long relief allowing 1 run over 6 innings. Craddock surrendered a lead-off single to Chris Cardinale who was then forced out at second base on a fielder’s choice by Coba Canales. Craddock then issued a walk to Stephen Vogt, who had already launched his fourth home run of the season in the game – a solo shot to right back in the fifth inning.
With 2 men aboard, Andrew Riddle replaced Craddock and walked Scott Hodsdon which loaded the bases for Lester. He then smacked a pitch deep into the gap and chugged into third base with his first career triple.
The comeback made a winner of reliever Christian Gagne (2-0) who pitched 2 innings out of the bullpen. Scott Hodsdon pitched a scoreless ninth as he picked up his first save of the season.
Starter Brandon Sisk looked sharp as the game went along as he pitched into the seventh inning before running into trouble. With 2 men on, he surrendered a 2-strike, 3-run homer to pinch hitter Shea Alderete which tied the game at 4-4.
“Every time out he has gotten better,” said Svagdis of the lefty. “We all know what he is capable of. He went 6 strong innings and then just hung 1 pitch but anytime you get a quality start we’re doing alright.”
The Cougars took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning off a sacrifice fly by Hodsdon. Then it was Dwight Nixon who came up with a big hit of his own in the second. His 2-run double gave Azusa Pacific a 3-0 advantage.
Azusa Pacific left 13 men on base but still scored enough runs to win it.
These same 2 teams will be back at it tomorrow when the Cougars travel south to play at Vanguard at 2:30 p.m.. They return to Cougar Field next Monday to face Culver-Stockton (Mo.).