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Plate Deficiencies

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February 12, 2008
Gary Pine
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AZUSA, Calif. – Azusa Pacific couldn’t come up with the big hit, and umpire Mike Giraud couldn’t produce the right call. The end result of the combined plate deficiencies was a Cal State San Marcos sweep of Azusa Pacific by scores of 2-1 and 3-2, handing Azusa Pacific its first setbacks of the young season.

Azusa Pacific struggled to make contact all night, managing just 8 hits in the 14 innings of play, but in both games the Cougars scored in the final inning of play and loaded the bases, but each time they couldn’t push across the tying run.

In the first game, Cougar pitcher Camille Hundley matched San Marcos ace Melissa Lerno pitch-for-pitch but her only walk of the evening came back to bite her when Shanti Poston, who was issued the free pass, scored on a bases loaded ground out to give CS San Marcos a 1-0 lead that stood until the seventh inning.

In the final frame, San Marcos took advantage of a misplayed single to center to score what at the time appeared to be an insurance run but in the end was much more than that. The Cougars finally got to Lerno, tagging her for 3 hits in the bottom of the seventh. Hundley lifted a bases loaded, 1-out flare to the right-center gap that scored Alyce Candelaria from third, but Bethany Weisser had to hold up from second base to assure the ball was not caught and therefore stopped at third. Lerno then induced back-to-back ground outs to snuff out the Azusa Pacific comeback and preserve the win, San Marcos’ first-ever over Azusa Pacific.

In the nightcap, Natalie Mickelson staked Azusa Pacific to a 1-0 lead with her second home run of the season, a second-inning shot to leftfield. Sophomore hurler Erin Halma kept San Marcos off balance and off the bases until the fifth inning when Elizabeth Bush rifled a 1-out double down the leftfield line. She eventually came home with the game-tying run on a Halma wild pitch.

Tied at one, the game went into extra innings and in the top of the eighth San Marcos used a double and a 2-out single to plate a pair of runs and go up 3-1. The Cougars, however, rallied again before meeting their sudden demise. With 2 outs and the bases loaded, Weisser ripped a double down the leftfield line that plated Nicole Llorens and Candelaria to apparently tie the game at 3-3. As the ball was retrieved from the leftfield corner, Mickelson attempted to move from first to third but she was gunned down on the play to end the inning.

Enter plate umpire Giraud who as Azusa Pacific was celebrating its game-tying play instead signaled that the tag on Mickelson came before Candelaria crossed the plate. It was a call that surprised the approximately 100 people in attendance since it was clear that Candelaria had crossed the plate, crossed the batter’s box, and was beginning her move toward the dugout when Mickelson was tagged out.

Cougar head coach Carrie Webber argued her case with Giraurd and his partner Kelie Sturgis, who didn’t see the play since she was appropriately focused on the tag at third. Giraud indicated to Webber that he had a clear view of both plays, but video from the stands confirmed what most already knew – Candelaria had indeed scored the game-tying run before the third out tag.

Too little, too late. The game was called over, and the Cougars were left with a bitter taste.

Weisser finished the evening 3-for-7 in the 2 games with an RBI. Nicolette Nassif paced the CSUSM offense by going 3-for-6. Coelho had 2 RBIs for the night.

With the sweep, Cal State San Marcos improves to 5-3 on the season while Azusa Pacific falls to 4-2.