AZUSA, Calif. – Sophomore Erin Halma batted in 3 runs and pitched a complete-game shutout to lead Azusa Pacific to a Golden State Athletic Conference doubleheader split with the NAIA’s No. 10-ranked Vanguard University, Saturday afternoon.
Behind the spectacular pitching of All-American Jennifer Olvera, Vanguard won the first game, 1-0, before the Halma-led Cougars came back to run away with the victory in the nightcap, 7-0.
In the process, Halma posted her first-ever complete-game shutout in conference play by dancing around 7 hits and stranding 10 Lions on base, including 3 in the seventh inning. In fact, she enjoyed just 1 inning in which the Lions went down in order, but she always came up with the key out in the other 6 innings of work, including the fourth when Vanguard put runners and first and third with 1 out. However, Halma induced back-to-back pop outs to end the threat.
“Erin did a great job of staying ahead in the count and controlling the tempo of the game,” said first-year Cougar coach Carrie Webber. “She threw the pitches that were called and stayed mentally strong for 7 innings.”
At the plate, Halma highlighted a 4-run Cougar outburst in the third inning with her only hit of the day, a bases-loaded single to center that plated Erica Navarrete and Camille Hundley. In the fourth, she lifted a deep fly out to centerfield that sent Hundley home again, putting the Cougars up 5-0 at the time and in safe position to collect their second victory over a Top 10-ranked team this season (Azusa Pacific beat No. 5 Simon Fraser last month).
Bethany Weisser’s 2-run double in the sixth completed the Cougars’ 7-run “explosion” that ended a lengthy scoring drought in which Azusa Pacific had registered just 1 run in the 40 previous innings of play against GSAC foes.
The win pushes Halma’s record to 3-4 on the season. It’s only the second compete-game shutout of her career. The first came earlier this season in a 4-hit, 1-0 victory over Oregon Tech.
In the first game, Olvera was masterful, striking out the first 5 Cougars she faced and 10 of the first 13 that came to the plate. She took a perfect game 2 outs into the fifth inning before Weisser laced a double down the leftfield line for Azusa Pacific’s only hit of the game. Hundley followed with a laser to right-center gap that Lion centerfielder Noelle Navarette tracked down to thwart Azusa Pacific’s only threat of scoring.
Olvera finished with 14 strikeouts and walked just one (Mickelson with 2 outs in the seventh) while pushing her record to a perfect 11-0 on the season.
Hundley was nearly Olvera’s equal in the circle, and only a momentary lapse in control cost her an opportunity of forcing extra innings. Hundley allowed just 2 hits and struck out a career-high 11, but she walked 3 batters, including 2 in the third inning. The second came with the bases loaded and pushed Katie Daniels across the plate with the game’s only run. With 2 outs in the frame, Daniels ripped the game’s first hit, a double to left-center. Cougar second-baseman Cassie Treischel then booted Sarah Howe’s routine grounder to keep the inning going, and Hundley followed with the 2 fateful free passes.
For the day, Navarrete went 3-for-7 at the plate and 5 different Cougars had 2 hits. In 14 innings of work, Hundley and Halma combined for 12 strike outs while yielding just 9 hits and no earned runs, to help lower the Cougars’ team earned run average to just 2.45.
With the split, Azusa Pacific moves to 12-13 on the season, 3-5 in the GSAC. Vanguard, which has its 5-game winning streak over the Cougars snapped, is now 25-7 overall, 3-3 in the GSAC.