APU pitching shut down Concordia as the Cougars offense erupted in the fourth

Azusa Pacific baseball took the field on Tuesday for their fourth home game of the year against  the Concordia Eagles, a non-conference opponent. The Cougars shut out the Eagles, cruising to a 5-0 victory.

Right-handed pitcher Declan Kearney took the mound for APU, striking out three and allowing zero runs through two innings. Concordia’s starter, Noah McBride, also came out hot and kept the Cougars from scoring. APU first baseman Tido Robles made it to second base, but Will Stroud flew out to right field to end the inning with a runner left in scoring position.

The third inning started to heat up as Kearny hit the second batter and walked the third. With one out and runners on the corners, the Eagles looked to open up scoring. But Kearny battled, striking out the next batter and getting the third out with a pop fly to left-field.

In the fourth, Tripp Aversa came in to relieve Kearny. Aversa started strong, striking out the first two batters. He hit the third, but picked him off first base to end the half inning quickly.

The Cougars turned on their offense in the bottom of the fourth. Outfielder Casey Dykstra led off the inning with a single up the middle on a hard line drive. Then infielder Osvaldo Tovalin doubled to left-center on a deep shot off the wall, moving Dykstra to third. McBride threw a wild pitch and Dykstra sprinted home, giving the Cougars their first lead of the game.

Robles continued the hot streak, smashing a pitch down the third baseline for a double to drive in Tovalin. The next batter, infielder Nick Estrella, drew a walk and the cougars again had two men on base with only one out.  

Concordia’s coach decided to pull McBride and replace him with pitcher Henry Conroy, who immediately threw two wild pitches leading Robles to score and extend the Cougars lead.

Conroy walked another to load the bases and shortstop Jeffery Castillo hit a blooper into right field that dropped and scored two more runs. Concordia’s right fielder threw out the runner advancing to second to end the inning after the Cougars scored five runs on four hits.

The fourth inning ultimately won the game for APU as the next five innings were scoreless. Aversa got the win for the Cougars with a strong defense behind him. Strong pitching and defense have been the common thread through the first week of play. The team is not relying on as much of their offense as they have in recent years.

The Cougars will resume conference play on Thursday in a three game series away against Cal State Monterey Bay.