A powerful offense and solid defense allowed the Cougars to win four straight over Hawaii Pacific

Between Thursday and Saturday, the Azusa Pacific Cougars played a four-game series against the Hawaii Pacific (HPU) Sharks, winning all four games, with three dominant victories. With 8-1, 6-2, 10-1 and 9-7 wins, the Cougars outscored HPU 33-11 and held the Sharks to just four runs through the first three games.

The Cougars got off to a quick start in the first game of the series on Thursday by scoring one run in both of the first two innings, thanks to great hits by sophomore third baseman Osvaldo Tovalin. The Cougars never looked back as Tovalin added two more runs by smacking a home run in the fourth inning to give APU a 4-0 lead.

The Sharks got on the board with one run in the fifth inning, but this only pushed the Cougars to pour on the offense. Although both teams has 12 hits on the night, the score did not reflect this tight stat line as the Cougars pummeled the Sharks 8-1. Tovalin was certainly the player of that game; he went five for five with five RBIs and two runs.

In the second game on Friday, Tovalin continued right where he left off as he dominated the Sharks on the offensive side. Tovalin knocked in a run in the first inning, to grab the Cougars a 1-0 lead. The Sharks actually out-hit the Cougars 10-8 in the contest. However, again the hits total for the game was not representative of the score, as the Cougars defeated the Sharks 6-2.

Tovalin once again commanded the offense by adding two home runs, hitting a perfect three for three and adding four RBIs. Halfway through the series, Tovalin was eight for eight with nine RBIs and three home runs. These kinds of numbers, even though at this point they were only halfway through the series, make him a prime candidate for national player of the week.

On Saturday, the Cougars faced a doubleheader with the Sharks as they looked to close out this series with the sweep. In the first game, the offense came out flying, scoring six runs in the second inning, followed by two in the third and two more in the fourth.

“The ultimate goal is just to score when you can score,” said head coach Paul Svagdis. “We try to have quality at-bats throughout the lineup.”

The Cougars routed HPU 10-1, but the story of the game was APU’s defense. Holding the Sharks to a measly four hits allowed the Cougars to continue focusing on their offensive game. Although the offense certainly performed well, the pitching and fielding of the Cougars are what created such a dominant win.

The fourth and final game followed a different narrative from the rest, a battle for both sides right down to the final pitch. The Sharks tallied 13 hits throughout the contest but struggled to capitalize early on. After four innings, the Cougars held a powerful 8-1 lead, and it looked as if this game was following the pattern of the prior three.

However, late in the game, the Sharks’ bats began to come alive as they scored three runs in the fifth and seventh innings, creating just a two-run margin for the Cougars. Two consecutive home runs in the seventh inning put the Cougars pitching on its heels, but it wasn’t enough to lift the Sharks as APU secured the sweep with a 9-7 victory.

The Cougars achieved their first sweep of the season. This was a big boost to their confidence moving forward.

“We pitched really well and we played defense for the most part. The guys competed, so it was nice to see them come out and do a good job,” Svagdis said.

Tovalin was definitely the player of the series, finishing the four games against HPU with three home runs, six runs, 11 hits and nine RBIs, including nine consecutive hits at one point.

“I just started to get comfortable at the plate and I wasn’t trying to do too much,” Tovalin said. “I try not to think about it too much.”

The Cougars improved to 16-9 on the season, as well as 6-2 in conference play, and are currently on a five-game win streak. Their next series will be against Hawai’i Hilo from March 21-23 at the Cougar Baseball Complex.