The 14th-ranked Grand Canyon University baseball team defeated Azusa Pacific, 8-4, tonight in the series opener at Cougar Baseball Complex in Azusa, Calif. With the win, the Antelopes improved to 33-11 overall and 25-6 in the Pacific West Conference, while the Cougars fell to 13-29 overall and 10-19 in conference play.
The 33 wins are the most for GCU since winning 38 games in 2002. The six extra-base hits that the ‘Lopes collected tied for the most this season, having done so just two games ago on April 19 versus California Baptist at Brazell Stadium. The Antelopes currently hold a 2.0 game lead over California Baptist with five conference games remaining in their PacWest slate. CBU defeated Dixie State 6-3 tonight in St. George, Utah and have seven conference games remaining.
Starter Jorge Perez improved to 6-4 on the season after allowing just 1 run on 7 hits with 2 strikeouts over 8.0 innings of work. APU starter Jason Plowman (2-7) was charged with the loss.
Derek Mendoza led the squad offensively after batting 3-for-4 with 2 runs and 2 RBI. Paul Panaccione, Steven Swingle, Garrett Jeffries, Brandon Smith, and Kyle Raidy each added 2 hits, while Michael Pomeroy, Swingle, and Raidy also had 2 RBI apiece.
"Jorge dictated the game right from the start," said head coach Andy Stankiewicz. "Paul, Chris (Lindmark), and Nick (Chapman) had great plays defensively and those plays are big, especially in a small ballpark like this one. If we continue to play good defense, we are going to be okay. I thought today was one of the better days for Derek that I have seen in a long time. Those two home runs are not neceesarily who we are, we have to be a good, hard line drive team, but we put together some great at-bats tonight and we were rewarded for it."
GCU had their first runners in scoring position in the third inning and took advantage of it when Swingle hit a two out, two-run double to plate Raidy and Panaccione and hand the ‘Lopes a 2-0 lead. In the bottom half of the frame, the Cougars hit three consecutive two out singles to load the bases against Perez, who induced a lineout to second base to end the threat.
Mendoza hit the second double for the ‘Lopes en route to scoring Jeffries with no outs in the fourth inning. Mendoza moved to third on Chris Lindmark's single to centerfield and scored on a well-placed sacrifice bunt by Raidy.
The Cougars broke the shut out in the bottom of the sixth after a leadoff double scored on two consecutive groundouts to shortstop.
Pomeroy connected for his second home run of the season, a two-run shot over the right field fence in the seventh inning, to extend GCU's lead to 6-1. It marked the seventh straight game that Pomeroy has collected at least one hit.
Mendoza hit the second home run for the ‘Lopes in the following frame to make it a 7-1 game, the first multi-homer game for GCU this season. Before the eighth inning was over, the ‘Lopes added another run on an RBI double off the bat of Raidy.
As they have done the past few games, APU rallied for three runs with one out in the bottom of the ninth to cut GCU's lead in half at 8-4. Cody Repenning, who came in relief of Perez, retired his final two batters to secure the win.
The two teams will meet again tomorrow for another 5 p.m. contest at Cougar Baseball Complex. Fans can follow the action via live stats, audio, video by visiting www.gculopes.com.
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