James Threw Hits A Two-Run Home Run In The 8th To Extend Menlo's Lead to 10-5 Over Azusa Pacific:
Ty Finley Puts The Oaks On Top With A Two-Run Double In The 6th Against Azusa Pacific:
Menlo's inaugural trip to the NAIA National Tournament began in grand fashion after the Oaks won their first two tilts to advance to the semifinal of the Azusa Bracket, where they will take on College of Idaho for the right to advance to the Opening Round Championship.
Behind a five-run bottom of the 1st, Menlo took out the #4 seed Firestorm of Arizona Christian by a final of 8-5. Then in the nightcap against the host team and #1 club in the bracket in Azusa Pacific, the Oaks came away with a thrilling 11-7 victory. Menlo handed the #4 team in the nation only their third loss of the year at home, and in the process pushed the Cougars to the brink of elimination.
"We handled a lot of adversity over the course of the day but we had a never say die attitude," commented first year Menlo skipper Stefan McGovern. "We battled and competed each and every inning. Our coaching staff always preaches that but you really can't say enough about the guys' mentality and their will to win."
The adversity that McGovern spoke of came into full affect in the bottom of the 3rd inning against Azusa Pacific. Thanks to a 2nd inning Will Pierce home run, the Oaks had a slim 1-0 lead entering the frame. Starting pitcher James Jensen had retired the first seven Cougars running his postseason scoreless streak to 12.1 innings.
Then in the blink of an eye everything changed. Jensen surrendered four straight base knocks including a three-run go-ahead home run off the bat of second baseman Sammy Soyring and then Brent Warren made it back-to-back jacks with a solo shot to give APU a 4-1 advantage.
Momentum was entirely on the shoulders of the Cougars, but like they have done time and time again, Menlo responded. In the top of the 4th with the Oaks down 4-1 Pierce stood at second with two away and Ty Finely coming to the dish. As part of a renaissance Opening Round of the National Tournament, Finley came through in the clutch with a two-out double down the right field line to cut the deficit to 4-2. Finely ended the first day with four doubles and five RBI's as part of a performance for the ages.
"We want to keep playing," remarked Finely on his motivation for an outstanding day at the dish. "We want our season to keep going, we never want it to end so we are going to make it roll as much as we can."
Aaron Suarez-Lopez followed Finley's two-bagger with one of his own, smashing a Jacob Cage offering down the left field line to bring Menlo within one at 4-3.
Azusa would extend their lead to 5-3 in the bottom of the inning, but Menlo once again proved their resiliency with one in the 5th and three more in the 6th. A sacrifice fly by Michael Brandi snapped the Cougars advantage to 5-4 in the 5th, and then a two-run double by the aforementioned Finley in the 6th pushed the Oaks on top, leading 6-5. Suarez-Lopez followed with an RBI single up the middle to extend the margin to 7-5 heading into the bottom of the 6th.
Jensen battled through a first and second no-out jam in the 6th and then tossed himself a 1-2-3 inning in the 7th to keep the Oaks lead in tact going into the 8th.
In the top of the 8th Menlo added key insurance runs after putting the first two runners on in the form of a Coleman Cox single and an error by APU shortstop Anthony Rodriguez on a ball hit by Finley. A Taylor Cohn pinch-hit sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third with only one down, and then a sacrifice fly by Mickey Phelps extended the Oaks cushion to 8-5.
Next stood James Threw who gave all in attendance the idea that Menlo just might pull off an upset of monumental proportions. The sophomore from Santa Clarita blasted a two-strike, two-out home run off reliever Colby Gurney to give the Oaks a commanding 10-5 advantage.
"It was great, I needed it," said Threw on what was going threw his mind during his 360 foot trot around the diamond. "I was struggling a little bit, behind with two strikes so I was just trying to put the ball in play. It happened to go over the fence and it was big in getting us going."
Jensen came back out for the bottom of the 8th inning and retired the first two Cougar hitters on only three pitches to bring the Oaks within four outs of an epic "W." However APU was not about to go down quietly, putting four straight runners on including RBI singles from J.C. Aguayo and Brendan Casey to chop the Menlo lead to 10-7.
On came sophomore Kyer Vega to face Matt Page who represented the tying run, but the 6'4" righty induced Page on a grounder back to the box to put a lid on the Azusa threat.
Menlo added another insurance run in the top of the 9th on another Cox single and after Vega put the Cougars down 1-2-3 in the 9th, the Oaks pulled off the greatest upset in program history. Jensen earned the win with a gutty 7.2 innings of work while APU's Cage suffered the loss.
The opportunity to pull off the incredible upset was only made possible after the Oaks took care of business against Arizona Christian in the opening affair.
Menlo opened the game with five-two out 1st inning runs with the big blow, a C.J. Dailey two-run round tripper.
Starting pitcher Joey Webb made the lead stand with five shutout innings, but ran into trouble in the 6th. With the Oaks on top 6-0 the Firestorm loaded the bases with one down before shortstop Garison Hensley changed the dynamic of the game with a grand slam to trim the Menlo lead to 6-4. Three batters later Arizona Christian picked up another run with a two-out single by Zac Livingston, plating Kenny Zuvela who had doubled moments before.
On came Alex Tenorio and after Ty Finley threw out pinch runner Jake Storrer trying to steal second, the inning came to a close. Tenorio went on to toss three more scoreless innings of baseball, earning his first ever playoff save. Joey Webb picked up the "W," while Alika Pruett with 7.2 innings of work was saddled with the loss.
A much anticipated rematch against College of Idaho is on the books for Friday, May 11th. The Oaks took out the Coyotes in consecutive elimination games in the NAIA West Playoff Tournament a week ago in Portland, Oregon. The winner will advance within a game of the NAIA World Series. It will be the eighth time in the last month that these squads will get together.
"There are no surprises, we know what they have and they know what we have," said Coach McGovern on the matchup. "It comes to the point where the team who wants it more will come out on top and we want it pretty bad."
First pitch is slated for 3:30pm.
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|NAIA West Championships - Finals|
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|NAIA West Championships - Finals|
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|NAIA West Championships Second Round @ Concordia University|
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|NAIA West Championships Elimination Game|
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|NAIA West Championships First Round @ Concordia University|
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|(3) CSU San Marcos at||(8)||2|
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