LEWISTON, Idaho -- With 7 innings in the books and a scoreboard that read 2-2, things were looking favorable for the visitors.
That ended suddenly when the NAIA’s top-ranked Lewis-Clark State broke through with 5 runs in the bottom of the eighth inning and went on to post a 7-4 win over Azusa Pacific.
The opener of the 4-game series was delayed for over an hour when the skies opened and released a steady shower but it picked up speed quickly once it got underway with outstanding pitching performances from both starters.
Azusa Pacific’s Brandon Sisk was scintillating as his pitches darted throughout the strike zone all night long. He made his first start in over 2 weeks and he came up with one of his best outings of the season. Sisk set a new season-high in strikeouts with 8.
Lewis-Clark State (27-3) took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when Mark Thompson led off with a line drive to right field that fell in for a hit as Dwight Nixon appeared to lose the ball in the lights. Thompson wound up at third for a triple. After Sisk struck out Justin Fuller, Matt Vogel produced the game’s first run with an RBI groundout to first base.
The Cougars (20-17) got a break when catcher Nick Beghtol hit a flare down the right field line that landed with a muddy thud just fair that it kicked up a puff of chalk allowing Coba Canales to hustle around third to score to tie the game, 1-1.
Sisk ran into some problems in the fifth. He retired Thompson on a fly ball to right field before giving up a single to Fuller. A wild pitch sent Fuller to second and a passed ball allowed him to advance to third. Once again, Vogel came through as he lined a double to right to give the Warriors a 2-1 lead.
Mike Miller did not allow any more runs as he turned in 6 quality innings of work for Lewis-Clark State but the bullpen ran into some trouble. Max Hibbs got the first out but then loaded the bases setting up a confrontation with Canales, who was in the midst of a 5-for-5 night at the plate. Canales slapped a ball deep in the hole at short that turned into an infield hit that plated a run to tie the game at 2.
Hibbs rebounded to strike out Scott Hodsdon and Stephen Gillette to end the threat. The Warriors then scored 5 times against 3 pitchers in the eighth as they knocked Sisk out of the game and took control.
Canales and Hodsdon came up with RBI hits in the ninth to close the gap but it wasn’t enough as the Cougars’ 3-game win streak was snapped.
Both teams will be back in action tomorrow when they square off in a doubleheader at Harris Field beginning at 3 p.m.