APU baseball completes the series sweep of Academy of Art, improving to 24-2 and remaining on top of the PacWest and NCAA DII
This weekend, the Azusa Pacific Cougars baseball team played a four-game series against Academy of Art, winning all four and improving to 14-2 in conference play and 24-2 overall. Never giving an inch, the Cougars dominated all four games, scoring a total of 40 runs in the series.
Academy of Art currently sits lower in the PacWest standings at sixth place but the first-place Cougars knew that this series wasn’t going to be an easy one, as the Urban Knights were on a six-game win streak entering the series.
“You can’t take any team lightly. It doesn’t matter how much better or worse they are than you,” senior outfielder Grant Gamble said. “The fourth game of the series is always the hardest so we knew today was going to be a grind.”
In the first game of the series, Academy of Art failed to score a single run as the Cougars took them down in a 9-0 rout. Scoring all nine of their runs in the first five innings, APU came out strong and never looked back. Junior pitcher Isaiah Carranza got the shutout in a dominate performance that included ten strikeouts in nine innings pitched.
With 13 hits and a total of four errors for Academy of Art, the Cougars capitalized on a sloppy performance from their opponent and took the win in game one. Senior Tim Lichty led the offensive fire power with two hits, two runs and three RBI’s.
After an ebbing shutout, the Academy of Art knew they had to come out in the second and third games of the series and play better baseball. Five errors in two games didn’t help their chances of winning but the Cougars fought back, winning both the second and third games of the doubleheader by a score of 10-2.
“Baseball is a game where if you make an error, it usually comes back and bites you,” head coach Paul Svagdis said. “This is a game of numbers and if you give people a couple freebies, the other team is going to score runs.”
Junior catcher Justin Gomez led the charge in the second game of the series scoring two runs, three hits and five RBI’s on five at-bats. These five RBI’s would account for half of the Cougars’ total offensive production and paved the way for another solid game later that same day.
The second half of the doubleheader on Friday, was more of the same as the Cougars came out and firing. Gomez belted one out of the park for a two-run home run in the first inning. Junior first-baseman Austin Russ then hit APU’s second home run of the game in the next inning extending the lead to three.
In the sixth inning, Gomez fired his second homer of the game to add three more runs to the Cougars’ lead making it 8-0 going into the seventh and they never looked back scoring two more for a 10-2 win.
The final game of the series was a much different story as the Academy of Art did not want to get swept in this series. They came out giving everything they had and scored two quick runs in the first inning to take the lead.
A battle all the way down to the end, both teams scored five runs each in what was a very exciting eighth inning. APU ended up on top thanks to Gamble’s four RBI’s and Austin Russ’ one hit for two RBI’s.
With a final score of 11-9 in APU’s favor after blowing out Academy of Art in three previous meetings, they know they need to improve for future matchups. A mindset among the Cougars is that there are always things to get better at.
“From the pitching side of our game we just need to lock in and throw more strikes while not giving up so many walks late in the game,” senior outfielder Sean Aspinall said. “From the offensive side, we need to put pressure on the other team for all nine innings instead of letting our foot off the gas pedal.”
In addition to being first in their conference and in the NCAA, APU is also undefeated at home so far with a record of 11-0.
The Cougars will look to continue their dominance as they will take on Holy Names at home next week in a pair of doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday, as they continue on into the second half of their memorable season.