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April 18, 2006
Jason Cannon
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AZUSA, Calif. -- Maybe it was sleeping in their own beds or getting some home cooking during the holiday.

Maybe it was playing under a perfectly periwinkle evening sky free of rain filled clouds.

Regardless of the specifics it was good to be home and it showed as Azusa Pacific broke out the heavy lumber and smashed its way to a 15-10 over Claremont Mudd to snap a 4-game losing skid.

After scoring only 5 runs last week against Lewis-Clark State pitching, the Cougars broke out of their offensive funk in a big way and they had to because they were in danger of getting blown out otherwise.

Down 7-0, Azusa Pacific sent 13 men to the plate in the bottom of the fourth inning against starter Joe Wilbert as part of an 8 run rally that was part Cougar muscle and part Stag brain cramp. The Cougars hit a pair of laser home runs in the inning – a 2-run dingers by Coba Canales and Nick Beghtol - but also were the recipient of 3 walks, 1 hit batter and an error.

Scott Hodsdon added a 2-run single in the inning.

“I think our guys were more comfortable the second time around after seeing him in their first at-bats,” said head coach Paul Svagdis. “He was throwing strikes. We wound up scoring a lot of runs and if we can get our guys going we will be alright.”

All thoughts of watching the Stags fade were brought to an abrupt end as they answered with an RBI single by Robert Koczon to tie the game at 8 in the fifth. They then added 2 more runs in the sixth as Andrew Blomberg homered and Brett Erickson nailed an RBI double to make it 10-8.

But Kirk Nieuwenhuis did a good job after that on the mound for the Cougars as he tossed 3 scoreless frames giving his squad a chance to come from behind.

Remarkably, Azusa Pacific scored 4 times to take the lead for good without the benefit of a hit in the sixth. Johnny Soberal and Nieuwenhuis drew back-to-back walks to open the inning against Matt Green who then plunked Canales to load the bases. Green was then replaced by Greg May who skipped a wild pitch to the backstop which allowed Soberal to score to make it a 10-9 game.

Hodsdon followed with a bounding ball to shortstop that was bobbled by Koczon who then threw wildly to first. Nieuwenhuis and Canales scored on the play while Hodsdon reached second base as Azusa Pacific took an 11-10 lead. Nick Johnson’s RBI groundout completed the scoring without the benefit of a single knock.

Soberal was instrumental in the game as he was moved into the leadoff spot. “He was great tonight. He reached base 4 times. He got hit a couple of times which is something we’ve talked about. He also hit a couple of balls on a line one to left and one to center,” said Svagdis.

With the win the Cougars move to 1 game over .500 at 21-20 and enter a crucial final stretch of GSAC games. They begin with tomorrow’s game at Vanguard which is slated to begin at 3 p.m.