AZUSA, Calif. –- Just 3 batters into the game, Vanguard’s Sarah Howe set the tone for the day, slugging her fourth home run of the season over the leftfield wall to give the Lions a quick 2-0 lead. It was the first of 4 long-balls crushed by the Lions who cruised to a 13-0 victory and then rallied late for a 13-4 win to take a Golden State Athletic Conference doubleheader at Azusa Pacific Tuesday evening.
The Lions scored 26 runs in just 13 innings of work, crushing the ball in all directions throughout the day. They registered 27 hits, 12 of which went for extra bases, and clinched both victories with big innings.
In the first game, Vanguard scored 7 unearned runs, all with 2 outs, in the fourth inning to take a commanding 11-0 lead. That was more than enough for junior pitcher Jennifer Olvera, who was masterful in the circle, striking out 7 of the 20 Cougars she faced while yielding just 1 hit – a second-inning Natalie Mickelson single to leftfield.
Not that Olvera was ever in trouble, but Melissa Forrester’s 2-out double down the right field line gave Olvera some third-inning cushion, scoring Rachel Bromgren and April Glenn to double to Lion advantage to 4-0 at the time. Seven of the 9 Lions starters collected hits, including Bomgren, Howe and Ashley Ocasio who all had 2 safeties in the first game.
In the second game, Vanguard used a pair of solo bombs in the top of the sixth inning to tie the game at 4-4. Jennifer Rynida’s first home run of the season, a blast to left-center, came with 2 outs in the top of the sixth. She then crushed another bomb in the top of the eighth to spark a 9-run inning and give Vanguard the victory going away.
Azusa Pacific had assumed a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning when Lori Shimasaki, Justine Barnett, Tami Carter and Erin Halma strung together 4 straight 2-out hits, including Halma’s double to left-center that scored Carter and Barnett with the go-ahead runs.
As a pitcher, Halma was battling her way through the Lion line-up and appeared to be headed toward a nifty upset of the NAIA’s No. 7-ranked Vanguard when with 1 out in the top of the sixth, Forrester launched her first home run of the season to pull the Lions to within a run. One out later, Rynda followed with her game-tying homer.
That was all Vanguard needed at the time. Olvera came on in relief and pitched 2 perfect innings, striking out 4 of the 6 Cougars she faced while the Lion bats erupted for the 9 runs in the top of the eighth to secure the victory.
Forrester finished the day 4-for-7 with 5 RBIs, 2 doubles and a home run. Olvera’s pitching line for the 2 games combined was 7 innings of work, striking out 13, walking 2 while allowing just 1 hit.
With the sweep, Vanguard improves to 36-9 on the season, 14-4 in the GSAC. Azusa Pacific falls to 13-23 overall, 3-17 in the GSAC.