AZUSA, Calif. Azusa Pacific broke out the heavy lumber and added outstanding pitching as it swept a doubleheader from Westmont 16-5 and 5-3 on Saturday at Cougar Field.
With the Cougars trailing in the bottom of the sixth inning of the opener, freshman Kirk Nieuwenhuis lined a 3-run homer over the right centerfield fence to give them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
The freshman first baseman was 1 of 3 in the Azusa Pacific line-up to drive in 4 runs. Senior Scott Hodsdon and freshman Stephen Gillette also had 4 RBIs and each also homered. Gillette’s homer was the first of his collegiate career as the Cougars power display came courtesy of veterans and first year players alike.
The first game also featured a big game from Coba Canales who had 3 hits and scored 4 times in addition to driving in a pair of runs.
Guy McDowell pitched 3.1 innings of scoreless baseball in relief of Zach Pettikas to pick up his fifth win of the year.
Azusa Pacific took advantage of some sloppy Warrior defense to keep scoring rallies going with perhaps the most important coming in the tide turning sixth frame. With 1 out trailing 5-3, the Cougars changed momentum in the game. James O’Neill reached on an error by Warrior third baseman J Ballard. Johnny Soberal then popped out to third which should have ended the frame.
However, because of the miscue the inning continued and Nick Johnson singled to left field setting up Nieuwenhuis’ second homer of the year which put Azusa Pacific ahead, 6-5. Canales then singled and moved to second on a balk. Hodsdon then delivered and RBI single that pushed the lead to 7-5.
From there the route was on as the Cougar bats stayed hot scoring 5 times in the seventh inning and 4 more times in the eighth.
It was the highest run total for Azusa Pacific since they scored 16 runs against Patten on February 21 in a 16-0 win.
In the nightcap, Hodsdon pitched 5 strong innings and McDowell again came out of the bullpen to close out the Cougars twentieth victory in 2006.
Nick Beghtol got the Cougars on the board with an opposite field solo shot in the second inning for a 1-0 lead. Later in the frame, Shaun Lane hit a sacrifice fly to plate Nixon to push the advantage to 2-0.
The Warriors cut the lead in half on an RBI groundout by A Martinez to make it a 2-1 contest.
But then a 3-run outburst triggered by back-to-back doubles by Canales and Hodsdon that made it 3-1. Nixon knocked in a run with a single and Soberal executed a squeeze play that scored Johnson from third to put the Cougars ahead by 4.
Westmont rallied scoring twice in the sixth but McDowell came out of the ‘pen and slammed the door with a pair of scoreless frames.
Also not to be overlooked was the defense of Nixon, who made a pair of diving catches in left field in support of his pitchers.
With the victories, the Cougars improve to 20-16 overall and 13-11 in conference action.
Next up for Azusa Pacific is the top-ranked team in the nation, Lewis-Clark State. The Cougars and Warriors begin their 4 game series on Tuesday at Harris Field in Lewiston, Idaho.