SPORTSCOPE : Azusa Pacific Top Seed for Crown After Slow Start
After a slow start, it has developed into a memorable season for the Azusa Pacific University baseball team.
The Cougars dropped seven of their first 12 games but have rebounded to win 27 of their last 30 games to build a 32-10 record and enter the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics District 3 playoffs as the host and top seed.
Azusa Pacific opens the double-elimination tournament against either The Master’s or Southern California College at 3 p.m. today. In the other first-round game, Cal Baptist will meet Cal Lutheran at 11 a.m.
The tournament continues with three games Friday and the championship is Friday. The winner advances to the NAIA area playoffs next week.
The Cougars, who posted a 23-3 record in District 3 play, have been paced offensively by first baseman and designated hitter Carlos Salazar. The senior became the first player since former Azusa Pacific star Rob Amble in 1984 to win the District 3 triple crown. He finished the regular season with 20 home runs, 62 runs batted in and a .428 batting average in 39 games.
His home run figure also surpassed the school record of 19 set by Paul Moskau in 1975 and Amble in 1984 and shattered the mark for slugging percentage at .952. The previous record of .789 was set by Chuck Van Schoych in 1974.
The Cougars have also been led on offense by senior outfielder Tim Norman, hitting .400. Azusa Pacific has received outstanding pitching from senior Jose Gallardo, 10-1, and winner of his last eight decisions.
The team enters the playoffs with a .328 batting average after posting a .275 average after 12 games. The Cougars finished the regular season with their best record since 1978, when they went 39-11.
The Azusa Pacific men’s track and field team will bid for an unprecedented ninth straight title when it hosts the NAIA District 3 championships Friday and Saturday in Azusa.
The Cougars, who have won seven straight NAIA national titles, are regarded as heavy favorites again behind senior Ade Olukoju in the shot put, discus and hammer throw. Olukoju, a native of Nigeria, is NAIA national leader in all three events including a best of 211-3 in the discus.
Azusa Pacific, coached by Terry Franson, will also rely on Vince Beresford and Eric Whitcomb in the pole vault, Eddie Carbin in the long jump and 110-meter high hurdles and Felix Sandy in the 400-meter run.
The last time the school did not win the district title in men’s track was 1981, when it lost to Cal Lutheran, 173-158.
The Cougars are also strong contenders in the women’s division, where they have won the district title seven of the last eight seasons. The team is led by high jumper Latrese Johnson, defending NAIA indoor and outdoor champion with a best of 6-2.
The Cal Poly Pomona women’s softball team will try to end a disappointing season on a successful note when it plays a Big West Conference double header against San Diego State at 1:30 p.m. today in San Diego.
The Broncos enter the games at 32-32 overall and 14-20 in the Big West.
Pomona is coming off a five-game trip to Hawaii, where the Broncos won four. They defeated Chaminade in a single game and took three of four games with the University of Hawaii.
It has also been a struggle for the Cal Poly Pomona baseball team this season.
But the Broncos, who entered the week at 16-34 overall and 8-18 in the California Collegiate Athletic Assn., will have an opportunity to play spoiler when they face Chapman in a season-ending three-game series that starts today.
Chapman still has an outside chance at the conference title. The Panthers entered the week in third place in the CCAA at 16-10, just behind UC Riverside (20-9) and Cal State Northridge (18-9).
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