Following Wednesday's first game -- an outing that saw the Lewis-Clark State baseball team curiously uninspired -- Ed Cheff cobbled together a fresh batting order for the second contest.
It's a tactic the coach has called on numerous times during his 28 seasons. Once again, it did the trick: The Warriors thumped 19 hits and barged by Azusa Pacific 21-11 at Harris Field. The win somewhat atoned for LCSC's 9-7 setback earlier in the day, not to mention its loss to the Californian visitors on Tuesday night.
But in all three games against the Cougars, L-C's pitching has been anemic, allowing 33 runs and 44 hits. And unlike energizing a slumping lineup, waking up a drowsy pitching staff is a more delicate matter.
It's a problem that certainly has Cheff's attention. Even in the glow of the Warriors' most glitzy offensive barrage of the season, he pointed to the pitching issues.
"Well, when you think that you might have to score 21 runs to win," the coach said, "that's a problem."
Derek Bruce and Tyler Best did the most damage in the second game, combining for six hits and four RBI. In L-C's eight-run sixth -- which bumped the Warriors' lead to 18-6 -- Bruce bashed the team's first grand slam of the season, followed by Best's two-run homer. (Best now leads L-C with eight bombs this year.)
LCSC, 29-7, had an entirely new outfield in the nightcap: Neil Litchfield in left, Nicolas Benton in center and Toshi Sasa in right. The trio combined to go 7-for-13 and scored seven runs.
"We were a little bit better in the second game playing some different guys," Cheff said. "Guys like Litchfield and Toshi and Benton gave us a pretty good effort against that left-handed pitching. We put in those three right-handed outfielders, and they played well."
The Warriors' most successful hurler of the game -- and perhaps of the day -- was Ryan Sallaway. The junior from Victoria, British Columbia, did surrender nine hits and seven earned runs in his 4l innings, but limited Azusa to two runs during a four-inning stretch.
Down 5-3, the Warriors took charge in the fourth. After Brandon Morris swatted an RBI single to tie the game, Josh Celigoy cracked a playable grounder with two outs. But it made a jittery bounce and skipped off the glove of Cougar shortstop Robbie Lindsey. The error allowed the inning to continue.
Best, the next batter, smashed a two-run triple, followed by a run-scoring knock from Litchfield. That made it 9-5.
In the first game, the Cougars invoked the same late-inning skill they flashed on Tuesday. Trailing 4-2 in the seventh, APU rang up six runs to take the lead. Stephen Vogt delivered a double down the left-field line that plated three runs during that uprising.
With L-C down by a run in the eighth, Bruce grounded into a double play. Then, after Anthony Slagle singled and Justin Fuller was hit by a pitch, Jose Rodriguez struck out looking.
Azusa, 24-14, got four hits from Lindsey.
These clubs conclude their four-game set tonight at 6:30. The Cougars will shoot for a 3-1 series win while L-C hopes to forge a split.
But a larger worry for the Warriors will be rehabilitating their limping pitching rotation.
"We're not in a big panic either," Cheff said. "You can win a national championship with seven (pitchers). You don't need 14; you need seven. Our deal between now and the end of the year is to find out who those seven guys are. And I think we might have seven or eight guys."
NOTES -- The back-to-back setbacks to Azusa on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon constituted the Warriors' first losing streak of the season. The last time they lost two consecutive outings was last year, against Gonzaga and this same APU club.