The Cougars lost game one 6-3 but won game two 6-4 in a doubleheader against Cal State Monterey Bay on February 1.
The Azusa Pacific baseball season is underway as the Cougars battled Cal State Monterey Bay (CSUMB) in a double header on Friday, Feb. 1. Although the Cougars dropped the first game 6-3, they bounced back and won the second game 6-4.
Both programs have seen recent success. CSUMB and APU were the top two seeds in the NCAA Division II West Regional last season.
“It’s great to play great teams,” said head coach Paul Svagdis. “I thought both teams actually played pretty well today. There are some things we have to do to get better, but all in all it was two good teams playing clean games, which that’s cool to see. It’s fun to watch baseball when you’re not making errors, trying to put the ball in play and the pitchers are making tough pitches. We just didn’t do some of the little things for 18 innings.”
CSUMB got their offense going early, scoring a run in the first inning of the first game and adding another two runs in the fourth. APU answered with a run of their own, courtesy of a Mychael Goudreau solo home run in the first inning.
The Cougars’ offense was stymied in this game compared to what APU fans were accustomed to seeing last season. Azusa Pacific scored just two more runs in game one, both solo home runs in the fifth and sixth innings from Cole Kleszcz and Joe Quire Jr, tying the game at 3-3.
CSUMB would pull away again, however, on a fielder’s choice in the seventh inning, pushing the lead to 4-3. A solo home run from Kyle Czaplak and a Kokko Figueiredo single with runners on first and third in the ninth inning gave Cal State Monterey Bay the lead for good, and they shut out APU in the final half inning to pull out a 6-3 victory.
Quire led the Cougars’ offense in the first game, batting 2-for-4 with a home run. Junior Nick Estrella started the game on the mound for the Cougars, pitching 3.1 innings with three strikeouts.
Game two was also a closely contested affair, although the scoring started much later in the game. Junior James Acuna pitched first for the Cougars, lasting four innings with five strikeouts and two hits.
As was the case in game one, CSUMB jumped out in front by way of a two-run homer to right field in the sixth inning. However, that lead would be short-lived as Joe Quire hit a grand slam to right-center field in the bottom of the inning, giving APU a 4-2 lead.
“Coach put together a good game plan, letting us know to get the ball up,” Quire said. “That pitcher just kept killing us down, and we kept swinging and missing so he wanted us to get something elevated and I just happened to swing and hit it.”
CSUMB battled back in the top of the eighth inning, scoring on two ground balls with runners on third base, tying the game 4-4. With Mychael Goudreau on base, junior Joseph Kim homered to right field, giving the Cougars a 6-4 lead with just one inning left to play.
Junior Tayton Smith, who also closed the first game of the day for APU, came in at the top of the eighth inning and closed out the ninth inning, sealing the Cougars’ first victory on the season.
“Coach told me that I was kind of a lefty guy, but he said that if I do well with my opportunity that he would just run me out there and that’s what I did. I just tried to stay around the strike zone,” Smith said. “I just put my head down and put my hood on and hoped that they would give me a shot to go out in the ninth, and I made the most of it.”
Goudreau, Kim, and Casey Dykstra all finished 2-for-4 at the plate, while Kim and Quire finished with two and four RBIs, respectively. On the mound, Acuna and AJ Woodall led all pitchers with five strikeouts each. Smith added another strikeout in his 1.2 inning performance.
“It was good to see a lot of young guys out there contributing. A lot of that makes us fired up when we’re out there playing,” Quire said. “We had a lot of people compete today, like Tayton, and that was huge for us.”
The Cougars will travel Turlock, California to play Stanislaus State on Feb. 8-9, before returning home to host Colorado Christian Feb. 14-16.