‘Rain and lighting and Vulcans and Sharks, (oh my)’ – APU baseball remained unphased through all of it in trip to Hawaii
After having two weeks off in their mid-season break, the No 1-ranked Azusa Pacific baseball team did not skip a beat in their road trip to Hawaii, winning all six of their games on the road against Hawaii Hilo and Hawaii Pacific, while improving to an impressive 33-3 overall record.
“The two-week break definitely gave us a little rest, but when we all came back, we all talked about how this is like a new season, starting from the beginning and how we have to lock it in,” senior outfielder Pablo O’Connor said. “We know that playing in Hawaii is tough, and we were able to go there, take care of business and have fun as a team, so it was overall a great trip.”
Cougars head coach Paul Svagdis expressed how his team considers this second half of the season to be treated like they are already in postseason play.
“[The two-week break] was a big layoff, so I think the big focus was that we would finish season one and we’re in season two right now, which essentially is really a playoff run, and you have to win now on the backend to make the playoffs and then you’re obviously in a playoff situation while you’re in playoffs,” Svagdis said.
On April 9th, the Cougars were set to begin their four-game series against Hawaii Hilo. APU swept the Vulcans in the first doubleheader between the two teams, winning the first game 5-3 and the second game 3-2 in a mild tropical rainy day.
The other two games against Hawaii Hilo that were set for the next day were postponed and rescheduled for another time later in the season due to more severe rains.
On April 13th, the Cougars began their four-game series against Hawaii Pacific, where they would make program history. In their first game against HPU, the Cougars would defeat the Sharks, 9-8, becoming the fastest APU baseball team to cross the 30-win threshold (33 games), improving to 30-3 on the season.
The very next day, however, the Cougars scored a total of 31 runs in their doubleheader against HPU, winning the first game, 18-4, and their second game, 13-0. The 18 runs scored in APU’s second game against the Sharks were the most runs scored in a game by the Cougars this season.
A few standouts for the Cougars on that day alone included senior outfielder Sean Aspinall, who went 4-for-11 at bat and extended is hitting streak to 15 consecutive games. Junior infielder Michael Goudreau had an eight-RBI afternoon, and a total of eight players for the Cougars had a .300 batting average or higher. While on the mound, the entire APU bullpen held both Hawaii Hilo and Hawaii Pacific to a combined .132 batting average.
“The hitters did a great job and it’s not an easy game, so it was just one of those 16 inning events that we were seeing the ball really well and we already had three games under our belt at that point [after the break], which I think really helped the guys get rolling on that Saturday afternoon,” Svagdis said.
On April 16th, the Cougars finished their final game in Hawaii, defeating the Sharks once again, by a score of 5-4. Now the Cougars will return back home to face one of their biggest PacWest rivals in California Baptist University in another four-game series beginning on Thursday, April 19th at 5 p.m...
Both the Cougars and the Lancers are currently riding a seven-game winning streak, and APU looks to avoid a repeat of last year. In the 2017 season, the Cougars began the year 30-4, before losing 3-of-4 games to CBU, giving APU their first series loss of the season. According to O’Connor, that will not be an issue this year.
“We don’t focus on the year before or anything. We are just focused on the next upcoming game, the next at bat, the next upcoming pitch. If we continue to do that, everyone do their own job and not do too much, then I have no doubt that we can take care of business again,” O’Connor said.
This will be the final regular season series between APU and CBU as PacWest and NCAA Division II opponents as CBU will be moving up to Division I next year.
O’Connor looks forward to playing against CBU due to the rivalry and competition factor.
“CBU is a great team and its fun playing against great teams. Although we do have a lot of great teams in our conference, CBU is always one of the top ones every year and them moving to D1 is a big thing for them, but this rivalry is like nothing else,” O’Connor said. “You can tell by the intensity level and how both teams come to the ballpark, so people who haven’t been here before are going to experience that, and I’m excited to experience it for one last time.”
Svagdis on the other hand, could not care less about who the Cougars are playing. He continuously preaches to his players to stay focused, be more mentally tough and do the same thing that they’ve been doing all year long.
“I don’t think we prepare differently for them, it’s just another game for us. If we are not treating it like the same game, then we’re not doing a good job and don’t have a good process. I appreciate CBU, I have a lot of respect for them and they’ve done a lot of good things for baseball within our league, but it’s just four freaking baseball games,” Svagdis said. “I’m not really worried whether they’re leaving or not to be perfectly honest. I don’t care who we’re playing this weekend, we play baseball the same way every time.”