The Cougars were busy over spring break, competing in the Tucson Invitational in Arizona and playing in a four-game series at home against Fresno Pacific.
The Cougars came into the Tucson Invitational on a nine-game winning streak, being 10-1, with a very strong start to their season.
The invitational was held March 2-4 and the team showed force, winning all three games. Day one was played against Concordia-St. Paul, and for the fourth time this season, the team scored at least 10 runs, with a final score of 14-6.
Junior outfielder Pablo O’ Connor, scored four times against St. Paul, noting that the team as a whole is showing a lot of strengths this season.
“No matter what the score is, we’ll always come back, we’ll always fight back,” O’ Connor said.
The Cougars swept Malone University the next day, winning 3-0. Junior pitcher Billy Oxford proved his strength by striking out six opposing players in a seven inning stretch. Oxford upped his own personal record to 4-0.
On the last day of the invitational, the Cougars dominated their 13th game of the season against St. Cloud State, winning 13-3. Junior third baseman Adrian Tovalin drove in three runs in the game and showed a new level of confidence on the field. He attributes his success to his mental approach.
“I’ve always been a slow starter,” Tovalin said. “Just staying confident and knowing that I can hit and just being loose instead of trying to do too much [helps motivate me].”
Tovalin also believes the team’s chemistry has played a large role in their winning streak.
“We’re a good group of guys that are very talented, but we can’t get confident. We have to compete against the game and not the opponents,” Tovalin said.
The Cougars headed back to Azusa with a 13-1 record and a 12-game winning streak, where they dove straight into PacWest conference games with a series against Fresno Pacific.
However, their first conference series seemed to prove that not all winning streaks last; the Cougars split the four games, with both the losses being only a 1-point differential.
Head coach Paul Svagdis did not predict the team having a split for this conference series, and looks to improve the team’s performance.
“Our expectation is not to split at home, we expect to win games and take series at home,” Svagdis said. “That’s something we have to get back to work on Monday, and we will have to find a way to make up for the split somewhere along the line.”
The first game of the series was a solid win for the team, the final score being 7-4. O’Connor scored the first run in the opening frame, starting the game off strong for the Cougars and gaining momentum.
Game two broke the Cougars’ winning streak, losing 8-9 against the Sunbirds. The Cougars swung back in game three for an dominant victory of 16-3. Junior starting pitcher Dillon Miyashiro earned the game win by striking out five hits. Miyashiro said the team has strong starts and strong relief appearances, but knows there is room for improvement.
“I think we let a couple of the games get away from us, pitching wise,” Miyashiro said. “I think we have a lot of work to do, defensively, on the mound and getting ahead of hitters and taking care of small things like that.”
The conference came to a close with the Sunbirds taking the final game of the series, winning 6-5. The team received four errors, leading to four unearned runs. Tovalin hit two long balls, bringing his series total to a whopping six long balls.
O’Connor noted the errors, saying it creates room for improvement.
“As a team, we need to limit the errors, the errors are big,” O’Connor said. “At the beginning of the season, we were just rolling and there weren’t a lot of errors, and we’ve gotten by with some wins while making errors, but that’s not any way to win a game.”
Coach Svagdis encouraged his team after the tough split: “The games we lost were close, but they were winnable, and I just told them that they’re a group of good character guys that will want to show back up on Monday and get back to work.”
The Cougars will be using the recent losses as motivation as they continue the season against conference opponents. Now 15-3, the Cougars will continue their strong season in their next series on March 17 at Holy Names University.