The 14th-ranked Grand Canyon University baseball team split their doubleheader today at Azusa Pacific, winning the first 12-3 and falling 3-0 in the second. Today's split meant that the Antelopes also split the four-game series with the Cougars. GCU is now 34-13 overall and 26-8 in the Pacific West Conference, while APU is now 15-30 overall and 12-20 in conference play.
Heading back to Phoenix, the ‘Lopes hold a 2.0 game lead over California Baptist, who fell 3-1 to Dixie State today in their series finale in St. George, Utah. The Lancers have four conference games remaining, all against Point Loma, while GCU has two PacWest contests to play.
"You wish you could stop scoring in the first game and save some for later," said head coach Andy Stankiewicz. "We had some nice at-bats in the first game and did a good job of staying on it."
GCU won the first game behind another strong pitching effort from Andrew Naderer, who picked up his fourth complete game of the season and second in a row. The freshman allowed just 3 runs on 6 hits and a walk with 5 strikeouts in 7.0 innings.
"Andrew has a bright future," said Stankiewicz. "One thing that makes him so good right now is that he doesn't give in. Andrew throws the ball down in the zone, and once he gets bigger and stronger, his fastball will develop too."
The ‘Lopes matched their season-high with 17 hits, led by Derek Mendoza with his first 4-hit and 4-RBI game of the season. Paul Panaccione, Michael Pomeroy, and Steven Swingle each added 3 hits in the game.
Brian Kraft connected for his second leadoff home run, and team-best third long ball of the season, to put the ‘Lopes up 1-0 early in the first inning. In the same frame, Mendoza plated Panaccione with GCU's fourth hit of the frame before the ‘Lopes found themselves with the bases loaded and just one out on the board. Brandon Smith drew a walk and Chris Lindmark was hit by a pitch to each collect an RBI and extend the lead to 4-0. Kyle Raidy represented the second out of the first inning when his sacrifice fly plated Garrett Jeffries.
The Cougars scored their first run in the second inning after the leadoff batter reached via a single and eventually came around to score on a groundout to the second baseman.
GCU opened the fourth inning with three consecutive hits, one of which was an RBI double off the bat of Swingle to score Panaccione, who earlier collected his third hit of the game. Mendoza scored Pomeroy for the second run of the inning as GCU opened their lead to 7-1 with no outs. Jeffries and Brandon Smith followed with RBIs to make it a 9-1 game.
Before the frame was over, Lindmark collected the sixth hit for the ‘Lopes in the fourth to move Smith to third base, and Raidy's second sacrifice fly of the game pushed GCU's advantage to 10-1.
Following two base hits to open the bottom half of the fourth, the Cougars scored their second run following a wild pitch with no outs. Naderer made a nice play to force an out at home and was able to get out of the inning without another run allowed.
Mendoza plated his third run on an RBI single to right-center that scored Pomeroy in the fifth. After APU added another run of their own in the sixth inning, GCU responded with their 12th of the game as Mendoza collected his season-high fourth hit and fourth RBI.
Game two starter Kyle Detwiler (0-1) was charged with the loss after allowing 3 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks with 4 strikeouts in 3.2 innings. Trent Wilson and Jeffries combined for 2.1 scoreless innings of relief. APU starter Joel Belk (3-0) was credited with the complete game shutout.
"Their starter (Belk) is good, and has had success against some very good ball clubs," Stankiewicz added. "We knew he was going to be on it. He has a nice changeup and did a good job of keeping our guys off balance. You never really want to tip your cap, but that was one of the better pitching perofrmances against us this year."
In the second game, the Cougars struck first in the bottom of the first inning after collecting three hits off Detwiler, who was making just his second start of the season. Both teams were held scoreless until APU's Domenic Biagini connected for a 2-run shot over the right field fence on the first pitch he saw in the fourth inning.
Unlike the first contest, GCU struggled to get going offensively and mustered only two hits. Jeffries broke the no-hit bid for APU with a leadoff single to right-center in the fifth inning. Mendoza accounted for the second GCU hit, a two-out single in the bottom of the seventh inning as the ‘Lopes were shutout for only the first time this season.
GCU will return home for their final regular-season series when they host PacWest foe Dixie State for a three-game set beginning on Friday at 4 p.m. Only two of the games will count towards conference play as the two teams have already played four games this season. Fans can follow the action via live stats and audio by visiting www.gculopes.com.
"We have to let it go and get ready for Dixie State."
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