APU baseball takes three out of four games from rival Biola in a weekend series

The Cornerstone Cup always brings out the best in both Azusa Pacific and Biola, and this baseball series was no different. The teams combined for 72 runs in four games and produced two final scores that looked more like football than baseball totals as the Cougars took three out of four games from Biola.

The Cougars took an early lead in game one, scoring in the first inning on a sacrifice fly from Joe Gomez. Gomez brought in another run in the third inning followed by a grand slam from freshman first baseman, Tido Robles. Junior Cole Kleszcz added another two runs on a home run to left field to give the Cougars an 8-0 lead.

APU scored another seven runs in the fourth inning, highlighted by three-run bombs from both Kleszcz and Joe Quire Jr., making the Cougars’ lead 15-3. Kleszcz’s third home run of the game was followed by Quire’s second in the bottom of the sixth inning, widening the gap between the rival teams again.

Redshirt freshman Evan Banks’s three-run homer in the seventh continued the onslaught for APU. Robles capped the scoring for the Cougars with a three-run jack in the eighth inning, giving the Cougars a 24-13 win in game one.

“I just tried to do what I could for the team,” Robles said. “Hitting is kind of contagious in a way, and I just tried to do my part and do the same as my teammates.”

However, game two could not have been more different, as the offense for both teams was stymied until the fifth inning when Biola took a 1-0 lead on Andrew Buglino’s sacrifice fly. Griffen Herrera’s RBI single in the sixth inning tied the game at 1-1 before Robles hit yet another home run to give the Cougars a 3-1 lead in the seventh inning.

Biola answered with a two-run homer of their own, tying the game at 3-3. The Cougars took game two in the 11th inning when Joseph Kim reached first on an error from the Biola second baseman, who allowed Mychael Goudreau to score from third base.

The third game of the series brought fireworks similar to game one, as Biola jumped out to an 11-0 lead in the first inning.

“I have never really seen anything like that in my time here,” said head coach Paul Svagdis. “I talked to the guys, and I thought our energy level in the dugout was excellent being down 11. No one really packed up shop. I talked to the guys after that inning and told them to erase the first inning and go toe-to-toe with them for the rest of the game and see what we can do.”

The Cougars battled back over the next four innings, cutting the deficit to just one run in the fifth inning. Biola, however, was not finished at the plate, as they added two runs in the sixth and three in the seventh inning. APU put up four runs to bring the deficit back down to two runs, but the hurdle was just too much to come back from, and Biola took game three 17-15.

Game four was less of an offensive slugfest. The Cougars fell behind by two runs in the first inning, but they gave up just two more over the next two innings before shutting down Biola’s offense for the rest of the series finale.

APU scored two runs in the second inning with RBIs from Banks and freshman Will Stroud. They added another two runs in the third on Stroud’s single up the middle and two more in the fourth inning on a single from Robles. Kleszcz’s single in the fifth inning capped the scoring for APU.

Meanwhile, pitcher Tripp Aversa threw three straight shutout innings for the Cougars in a series where scoreless innings were at a premium, closing out with a 7-4 victory.

“I looked back at game one and saw that they can hit and battle with two strikes,” Aversa said. “You just kind of keep that in the back of your mind for when you’re going to take the hill against them. You just have to remember, ‘Okay, two strikes I’ve gotta hit my spots and make them miss or get soft contact.”

APU improved to 23-10 on the season. They have a week of rest before a home-and-home series against Concordia beginning on Thursday, April 11. The Cougars currently sit at the top of the PacWest Conference with a conference record of 13-3.