Fresno Pacific notebook: Sunbirds swing back above .500 in conference after sweep

Fresno Pacific turned up its offense this week to get back over .500 in the Pacific West Conference baseball race.

A doubleheader sweep of Hawaii Hilo on Friday left the Sunbirds just 13-16 overall and midpack in the PacWest at 8-7 – 4 1/2 games behind league leader Cal Baptist (23-7, 13-3) – in their first year of eligibility for the NCAA Division II postseason.

But it was another sign of renewal for a Sunbirds team trying to dig out of a 6-13 start to its 2016 season.

Fresno Pacific clobbered a total of 28 hits in winning 9-3 and 6-1 against the Vulcans (4-17, 3-15) while winning three of four in the series.

Freshman Angel Flores got it rolling in Friday’s opening game with a two-run single in the fourth that erased a 1-0 deficit.

The Sunbirds carried that momentum into the fifth, collecting five singles for a 6-1 lead highlighted by Preston Scott’s RBI single. Fellow senior Nick Pate went 4 for 5 with an RBI and Hunter Villanueva 3 for 4 with a double and two RBIs.

Freshman right-hander Rickie Garcia improved to 2-2. He went eight innings, giving up two earned runs and seven hits and striking out nine.

Senior Davy Vartanian dominated in Game 2 in his first career start and just his second appearance on the mound this season. Vartanian threw five innings of five-hit, scoreless baseball before Kyle Rasmussen closed it out.

Scott had a two-run double in the first to extend his hitting streak to 24. He finished 9 for 15 in the series and leads the team in batting (.411) and runs (29).

The Sunbirds have won 7 of 10 after going 1-9 in the 10 games before that.

Fresno Pacific faces a tougher test in the form of Dixie State (20-6, 8-4) for a four-game series starting Thursday in St. George, Utah. The Red Storm was No. 24 in the latest National Collegiate Baseball Writers D-II poll, with Cal Baptist 10th.

Track and field – Fresno Pacific’s Ryan Phillips and Donte McDaniel were named the PacWest co-Men’s Track and Field Athletes of the Week for competition from March 7-20.

Phillips nearly broke a 24-year-old school record while finishing fourth overall and second among collegiate competitors in the 1,500-meter run with a time of 3 minutes, 52.28 seconds at the Occidental Distance Carnival. He was less than a second off Jason Lindholm’s 1992 team record.

McDaniel won the triple jump at consecutive events, with his mark of 51 feet at the Sacramento State Invitational a personal best and the top mark in NCAA D-II this year.