Baseball falters late in Cornerstone Cup opener
Eagles give up six runs to Azusa Pacific in the final two innings of their season-opening loss. | Chak Hee Lo / THE CHIMES
Baseball started its inaugural NCAA season on the biggest stage possible: a marquee midday matchup against the hated Azusa Pacific University Cougars at Eagles Diamond. The Eagles’ bullpen blew a 4-1 lead in the eighth and ninth innings to the Cougars, and a rally in the ninth inning fell just short. The 7-6 loss did not count towards either team’s conference record despite both schools residing in the PacWest. However, it will factor into the Cornerstone Cup. The Eagles will have to win their conference series against APU on April 26-28 to gain 10 points in the rivalry series.
BEYER ACELIKE IN 2018 DEBUT
As expected, senior pitcher Micah Beyer earned the opening day starting nod from manager Jay Sullenger, then earned the respect of APU’s powerful bats by limiting them to one run and six scattered hits over five innings. Beyer also recorded seven strikeouts, four of which came against the first six batters he faced.
“Micah did a great job doing what he’s always done, which is throwing a lot of strikes, doing a good job with his breaking ball, and being in the zone,” Sullenger said. “He’s come a long way in four years.”
Junior catcher Anj Bourgeois led off the bottom half of the first inning and walloped the third pitch he saw over the right-center field fence, igniting the home crowd and giving his team a quick 1-0 lead.
“It was a 1-1 count, and [APU’s pitcher] has started me off with a fastball away then a curveball,” Bourgeois said. “Then he came back with another curveball… I almost didn’t swing, because it wasn’t a fastball, but I saw it get out of [his] hand so I just kept swinging.”
Bourgeois was in such disbelief at his home run that he double-checked with an umpire as he rounded the bases to make sure the ball had indeed left the yard.
The Cougars tied the game in the third inning with a double and a single off Beyer, but the Eagles struck back in the bottom of the fourth when sophomore outfielder Andy Van Antwerp walked with the bases loaded to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead. The next batter, senior shortstop Ricky Perez, hit a ground ball to third base, but the throw to home plate from Azusa’s third baseman went wide, allowing sophomore third baseman Jacob Portaro to score. Biola stretched its lead to three in the seventh inning when Portaro doubled to score junior third baseman Joey Magro.
YOUNG RELIEVERS LOSE LEAD
Junior pitcher Devin Sutorius, made his Biola debut in the sixth inning and threw 2.1 scoreless frames while striking out two. With one out in the eighth inning, Sullenger pulled him in favor of redshirt freshman pitcher Honus Kindreich, who promptly gave up a long double, a walk and a three-run home run to tie the game at four. Kindreich escaped the eighth without any further damage, and Sullenger turned to redshirt freshman pitcher Christian Hammer to preserve the tie in the ninth.
Hammer, like Kindreich, suffered through a rough start to his collegiate career. APU loaded the bases with nobody out against him, then scored all three of those runners via a single and two sacrifice flies. In the bottom of the ninth, however, the Eagles rallied, again loading the bases with one out. After senior outfielder Jerron Largusa struck out, freshman designated hitter Tyler Piston laced a two-run single to cut the deficit to one, but Van Antwerp followed with a game-ending strikeout to seal APU’s victory.
The Eagles will continue nonconference play by hosting Western Oregon University at an interesting neutral site: APU’s Cougar Baseball Complex in Azusa, Calif. on Feb. 8 at 5:30 p.m.