Odd baseball schedule brings unique dilemma

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Senior outfielder Matt Kimmel and the Cougars baseball team look to continue enjoying their long home stretch before embarking on their 21-game road journey. Photo: Grant Walter

The Azusa Pacific baseball team is off to an up-and-down start to the 2014 season. After the first 10 games, the Cougars stand at 6-4, a record that includes six wins at home and four losses on the road. Going winless on the road and undefeated at home so far, the Cougars look as if they are extremely comfortable in Azusa and less so while traveling.

The Pacific West Conference has faced scheduling conflicts while trying to accommodate travel plans for schools on spring break. Because of these conflicts, Cougar baseball will now head into its own “March Madness,” holding an unfamiliar schedule in its second season competing in the PacWest. From this point on, the Cougars will play 16 straight games on their home field followed by a staggering stretch of 21 consecutive contests on the road.

The unusual scheduling is a challenge that head coach Paul Svagdis is ready for his team to take on.

“We want to get off to a good start being at home, and on the back half, playing on the road is going to be a good challenge. I like challenges. I think that’s why I coach, to see our players put into adverse situations and watch them overcome it,” Svagdis said. “That’s probably the most exciting part of my job, is watching them do things like that.”

The home stand will include series facing Holy Names, Fresno Pacific, the Academy of Art and UC San Diego. APU will also face Biola and Cal State Dominguez Hills for one game apiece during the stretch.

The 21-game road trip will include a weekend series at Point Loma, an exhibition matchup against the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, a four-game series at Dixie State and a trip to the Hawaiian Islands to play four apiece against Hawai’i Pacific and Hawai’i Hilo. Following the trip to the Aloha State, the Cougars will then head south to face off against Cal State San Marcos and UC San Diego, with two games for each.

Being away from home for so many consecutive games may not be an ideal situation but will not be looked at as a disadvantage for the Cougars.

“It just means we really need to be focused that we’re going to places that we’re most likely not comfortable in, someplace that is not a home field, so we have to make sure we are doing everything we can, focusing on the game and visualizing what we need to do,” junior pitcher Zach Hedges said. “Baseball is the same game no matter where you play it.”

Following the 21-game road trip, the Cougars will return home to end the regular season with one game against Cal Poly Pomona followed by a four-game series against California Baptist.

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