AZUSA, Calif. –- After struggling to push across runs for 9 innings, Cougar bats exploded for 11 runs in the final 4 innings of the day, allowing Azusa Pacific to settle for nonconference doubleheader split with Dominican, losing the first game 8-2 before coming back to run away with an 11-3 victory in the nightcap.
The Cougars tallied 24 hits in just 13 innings of work on the day and are now batting a whopping .364 as a team, but they couldn’t manage clutch hits in the first game and instead fell to Dominican for the first time in program history and 11 meetings overall.
Dominican, which came in the day with a 6-game losing streak found Erin Halma’s pitching to their liking, parlaying 5 first-inning hits into a quick and what proved to be insurmountable 5-0 lead. Kristin Kennedy’s 2-out double to left-center put the Penguins up 4-0 at the time, and she came home when Jenna Joyner followed with a single.
Azusa Pacific tried to chip away at the early deficit, putting runners on base in the first 3 innings, including a 2-on-and-no-out situation in the second, but was frustrated each time, partly by its own base-running mistakes and by some timely pitching by Penguin hurler Deena Westrope.
By the fourth inning, the Cougars were down 6-0. Tami Carter led off the inning with a line shot to centerfield that Brittany Hale misplayed off her glove allowing Carter to stroll into second. One out-later Courtney Cleaves singled Carter home with the Cougars’ first run. Cleaves stole a base and then used a wild pitch to end up at third base but Westrope got out of the mini-jam without further harm.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Cougars again got the first 2 batters on base but couldn’t take advantage of the situation, having to settle for just 1 run, and eventually succumbed to Dominican, which with the victory snapped a 6-game losing streak.
As they had in the first game, the Cougars fell behind early in the second contest. An Ashley Mills’ 2-out single to center plated Courtney Wilcox and Shannon Markley to put the Penguins up 2-0 in the top of the second inning.
However, the Cougars led off the bottom of the third inning with 4 straight hits, including a Natalie Mickelson double to the wall in right field that scored Justine Barnett and Carter to give Azusa Pacific a 3-2 lead that it would not relinquish.
It was the beginning of an explosion in which the Cougars would go 15-for-31 over the final 3-plus innings to run away from Dominican for the mercy-ruled victory. In the fourth inning, freshman Natalie Burk literally knocked Penguin pitcher Courtney Parks out of the game with a line-shot off Parks’ leg, scoring a run that at the time to put the Cougars up 6-2.
Mickelson eventually ended the game with 2 outs in the bottom of the sixth with a bases-loaded single to center that scored Lori Shimasaki.
Sophomore pitcher Camille Hundley scattered 9 hits, struck out 5 and did not walk a batter while picking up her fifth win in 7 decisions this season.
On the day Barnett went 6-for-8, including a 5-for-5 performance in the second game with 3 runs scored. Shimasaki was 5-for-7 with 4 runs scored, all in the second game.
With split, the Cougars’ record moves to 8-8 on the season. Azusa Pacific returns to GSAC play Tuesday (March 13) at the NAIA’s No. 1-ranked Cal Baptist.