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APU baseball drops their first home game of the season, but still wins series 3-1 over Holy Names as they enter a break in the season

 

The No. 1-ranked Azusa Pacific baseball team improved to 27-3 on the season after another series victory this past weekend against Holy Names. The Cougars would win the series 3-1 over the Hawks but would drop their first home game of the entire season.

On Friday’s doubleheader, the Cougars looked dominant. In game one, the Cougars won 5-0 and were led on defense by junior pitcher Isaiah Carranza, who threw a complete-game shutout while also tossing 12 strikeouts to improve to 7-0 on the season. It was Carranza’s second consecutive shutout.

The Cougars won game two by a score of 7-3 as senior pitcher Layne Henderson earned his fourth consecutive win after throwing six strikeouts in seven innings. The Cougars entered the weekend tied for first in the nation in Division II baseball with 46 home runs and added two more in game two. Senior outfielder Pablo O’Connor hit a solo shot in the third inning, and in the fifth, senior outfielder Sean Aspinall hit a three-run home run to boost the Cougars to victory.

On Saturday, APU prepared for another doubleheader with Holy Names, but they would not find the same success that they had on day one. In game three of the series, the Cougars did well at bat as they scored nine runs, but still managed to come up short, losing 12-9 in 10 innings of play. Poor defensive play was a big factor in the Cougars third loss of the season, as they had five errors on the evening. The loss snapped APU’s eight game win streak.

“We got to do a better job defensively,” head coach Paul Svagdis said. “I don’t think we played well to start the day, so I was really happy with their performance in the second game because they were able to kind of get rid of [the ball], flush it and have better at bats. I know we didn’t put nearly as many runs on the board, but our approach was a lot better in the second game than the first game. Anytime you can bounce back from a game that’s hard to swallow, it’s really a good sign of the group character of the team and I was proud of the way that our guys bounced back.”

The Cougars were able to close out the fourth game of the series with a 3-2 victory. Defensively, the Cougars improved tremendously compared to the previous game, as APU had no errors in game four.

Senior pitcher Dillon Miyashiro closed the series with a complete-game, nine strikeout performance. Svagdis knew that he wanted Miyashiro to close the series because of his mental toughness.

“I can’t say enough about Dillon,” Svagdis said. “We had him pitch game four, I don’t want to say for that moment, but if you don’t win that third game, you’re going to want your toughest guy pitching to win a series. That’s why we chose to flip the rotation. Dillon is a captain and he’s one of the more mentally tough players that I’ve had here at APU, so I’m really proud of the way he competes.”

After the loss in the third game of the series, Miyashiro wanted to come out and help give his team a spark of momentum to end the series.

“I think I was just trying to go out and give our team a little bit of momentum. Obviously, we took the loss in the earlier game today, so just going out there and give us a chance to win,” Miyashiro said. “I’m just trying to get back to myself and what I do well, which is locating my fastball’s and breaking ball’s for strikes and getting ahead of hitters. I think I struggled a little with that last week, so I just wanted to get back there again this week and just give us a chance to win.”

Miyashiro expressed that he was not discouraged by the loss earlier in the day, but that he was motivated to help his team even more.

“If anything, it made me gear up even more, because I knew how important It would be to shut those guys down and just let our offense get rolling, because when we do, we’re the best team in the country.”

APU will play their next series against Hawaii Hilo beginning on April 9th. The Cougars have reached the break in the middle of their season, where they will have two weeks off before finishing their last 20 regular season games and entering the postseason after that. The team believes that the break will be very beneficial.

“It’s like a new 20 game season and it starts out on the road in Hawaii. We’re going to take a couple days off and rest a little bit. It’s going to feel like a whole new season in two weeks and we’re going to have to come out and work on things that we haven’t done well in the first 30 games, and then build on the things that we have done well,” Svagdis said.

Junior catcher Justin Gomez has been another instrumental part of the Cougars success this season, as he leads the team in home runs (8) and most recently went 3-for-8 with two runs and three RBI in the day two doubleheader against Holy Names. He looks forward to using this break as a time to recover.

“I’m just trying to get better, heal up and recover from everything. After this bye week, we go on a 20-game streak, then off to regionals to who knows what else after that,” Gomez said. “I think a lot of us are just trying to recover, and get stronger in the weight room, keep our bodies in tip-top shape and not lose anything going into Hawaii.”