AZUSA, Calif. -- With a large conference weekend looming it might have been easy for Azusa Pacific to lose focus.
Instead, the Cougars played one of their finest ballgames of the season as they beat The Master’s, 11-1, for their second win in as many days.
Once again the Cougars got outstanding starting pitching, this time it came from lefty Brandon Sisk who had his finest outing of the year throwing 7 innings of 1 run ball. He allowed only 4 hits and struck out 5. His fastball was crisp and his offspeed stuff kept the Mustangs off balance.
“For me it is mainly about getting back in the groove,” said Sisk who missed a portion of last season with an injury. “I’ve been working hard everyday because I know I’ve got a job to do.”
At one point, Sisk retired 10 batters in a row into the sixth inning before allowing a home run to Phil Seston. He then came right back and got 5 of the next 6 hitters out.
“Sisk was really good tonight,” said catcher Stephen Vogt who had the best view in the house. “His 2-seamer was moving well.”
All the while the offense gave Sisk a 2-0 lead in the third inning. Vogt led off the inning with a single to center. After Scott Hodsdon struck out, Dwight Nixon, who was running for Vogt, moved up to second base on a wild pitch. Nick Beghtol then lashed a double down the right field line that drove home Nixon. Kirk Nieuwenhuis then hit a grounder to short that forced Beghtol at third base. The Cougars got an infield hit from Coba Canales and a walk by Titus Lester to load the bases. Brian Grijalva then threw a wild pitch that plated Nieuwenhuis for a 2-0 advantage.
The Cougars broke the game open in the bottom of the fifth inning when they scored 4 runs including 2 that came home on wild pitches. The Mustangs didn’t do themselves any favors as they struggled to execute defensively. Canales led off the inning by lining a ball toward left fielder Zane Jensen. As Jensen slowed down and reached up for the ball he bounced in and out of his glove to put the lead off man aboard. After Johnny Soberal walked, Canales moved to third base on a fly ball off the bat of Chris Cardinale. He then scored on an RBI single by Nick Johnson. Vogt followed with a ringing double to right. He finished the game 2-for-4 with a pair of walks.
“We took extra time hitting today before the game and it paid off,” said Vogt. “We’re trying to get on the right track with the sticks and we got 2 huge conference wins this week which is important heading into the weekend.”
The Cougars finished the game with Christian Gagne and Nieuwenhuis pitching scoreless frames. Nieuwenhuis also belted a 2-run opposite field homer – the first of his collegiate career.
“It was good to get Beghtol back in the middle of the line-up to bang the ball,” said head coach Paul Svagdis. “And Sisk has improved each time he’s pitched and tonight threw more strikes. He gave us a really good outing.”
Azusa Pacific (14-8, 9-3) will next travel to Riverside to face the No. 2 team in the nation and the GSAC-leading California Baptist Lancers in a doubleheader scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.