SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Not very often will a GSAC doubleheader feature only 1 earned run but when it occurred Saturday in San Diego it did not work in the favor of Azusa Pacific.
The NAIA’s No. 6-ranked Point Loma Nazarene defeated the Cougars, 2-1, in the first game – with all 3 runs in the game unearned – and then got a home run from Robby Jacobson in the bottom of the eighth inning to steal the nightcap, 1-0, on Saturday at Carroll Land Stadium.
It was a frustrating day for the Cougars who only allowed runs in the first inning of Game 1 and the final inning of Game 2, in between putting up nothing but zeros. However, the Cougars (12-6, 7-3) could not generate much offense and, as a result, no longer sit alone in second place in the GSAC but are tied for third with Point Loma Nazarene.
The Sea Lions (18-5, 7-3) got outstanding starting pitching from Taylor Cameron, who pitched into the ninth inning in the opener and Matt Tuttle who, in the nightcap, blanked the Cougars for 6 innings before giving way to the bullpen. Azusa Pacific countered with a pair of excellent outings from hurlers Zach Pettikas and Andrew Abell who were both outstanding in defeat.
Point Loma Nazarene put together its rally in the first inning of the opener against Pettikas. Kaohi Downing led off innocently enough with a walk. Chris Simpson then reached on an error by James O’Neill that moved Downing up to second base. The Sea Lions then boldly attempted a double steal, but Downing was gunned down at third by catcher Stephen Vogt while Simpson scampered into second. Pettikas then fanned Jason Gallegos looking and appeared on his way of getting out of the jam but Kurt Steinhauer did not let him off the hook as he homered to make it 2-0.
The Cougars came right back in the top of the second inning as Scott Hodsdon led off with an infield single. After Coba Canales flied out, Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a ball that was misplayed at short by Gallegos and he reached on the error. With 2 men aboard, Johnny Soberal singled up the middle to plate Hodsdon to slice the Sea Lions’ lead in half, 2-1.
Little did either team know that those would be the only runs pushed across in the ballgame. The Cougars did have scoring chances late but could not find a way to get the tying run home. With 1-out in the eighth inning, Dwight Nixon singled and then advanced to second base when a pick off attempt was thrown away. However, he was picked off at second base to put out the threat.
In the ninth, after an out was recorded, Vogt and Hodsdon hit back-to-back singles. However, closer Brad Clipp got his fifth save getting Canales to fly out and then striking out Nieuwenhuis to preserve the win.
The nightcap saw a pair of outstanding pitching performances by Abell and Tuttle in another tight, tense affair. Azusa Pacific outhit Point Loma Nazarene, 6-3, but could not come up with a run to make a winner of Abell.
The Cougars looked like they would break out on top in the top of the fourth. Nick Johnson led off the inning with a base hit and moved up to second when Vogt, hitting behind him, drew a walk. Hodsdon then drilled a ball into left field and Johnson was waved around third base. However, the throw by Travis Wiley beat Johnson to the plate and he was tagged out. Azusa Pacific still had runners at first and second with only 1 out but Canales flied out and Nieuwenhuis grounded out to end the threat.
Meanwhile, Abell kept the Sea Lion batters off balance with a dazzling array of pitches. He allowed just 3 hits and walked only 1 batter as he pitched his third complete game of the season. However, in a 0-0 game in the eighth, a mistake to Jacobson was hit over the fence to abruptly end the game.
The Cougars will next host Culver-Stockton (Mo.) on Monday night at Cougar Field. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.