COSTA MESA, Calif. – Sophomore pitcher Erin Halma did not allow an earned run in 6 innings of work and at the plate produced 2 singles and 2 RBIs to lead Azusa Pacific to a split of a Golden State Athletic Conference doubleheader with the NAIA’s No. 10-ranked Vanguard University Tuesday afternoon. The Lions won the first game, 1-0, before the Halma-led Cougars came back to win the second game, 5-2.
The split keeps Azusa Pacific comfortably in third place in the GSAC, 2 games ahead of Vanguard, which continues to be ranked ahead of the Cougars in the regional and national polls.
In the second game, Halma gave Azusa Pacific a 1-0 lead that it would not relinquish the rest of the way with an RBI fielder’s choice that sent Cassie Treischel home in the first inning. The Cougars added 2 more runs in the frame to assume a 3-0 advantage before Vanguard ever came to the plate. That was more than enough for Halma, who scattered 7 hits and struck out 3 while picking up her fifth win in 12 decisions this season.
The Lions parlayed a pair of Jeanette Murad errors at third base into 2 runs that cut the Cougar lead to 3-2 through 4 innings of play. However, Azusa Pacific answered in the top of fifth when pinch-hitter Bailey Blazek produced a 2-out infield single that scored Bethany Weisser to push the Cougar lead to 4-2. In the top of the sixth, Halma chased Vanguard pitcher Kelsey Boyer with a 2-out single to leftfield that scored pinch-runner Alyce Candelaria with the game’s final run.
Camille Hundley, who was masterful in the first game, came on in relief of Halma and picked up her first save of the season with a 1-2-3 seventh inning to preserve the Cougar victory.
For the second time this season, Vanguard rode the marvelous pitching of All-American Jennifer Olvera to a 1-0 victory over the Cougars in the first game. Olvera retired 11 of the final 12 Cougars she faced and allowed just 4 hits in the game while striking out 8.
Vanguard assured the victory for Olvera when Stephanie Leisenring laced a 1-out double in the sixth inning to send Sarah Howe home with the game’s only run. It blemished an otherwise sparkling pitching performance by Hundley, who retired 16 of the first 18 Lions she faced until Howe lifted a 1-out single to right field in the sixth inning. Hundley, who for the fourth time this season suffers the loss despite yielding 2 or fewer runs, has her hard-luck record fall to 10-12 on the campaign.
For the day, Weisser led the Cougars at the plate by going 4-for-7 in the 2 games with 1 RBI. Though the Lions did their best to pitch around Natalie Mickelson (she walked twice and was hit by a pitch), she nonetheless went 3-for-4 on the day.
Azusa Pacific moves to 20-23 on the season, 10-10 in GSAC play, while Vanguard is now 32-18 overall, 7-11 in the GSAC.
The Cougars have just 4 games left in the regular season, hosting Biola Saturday (April 19) before visiting Concordia, Tuesday (April 22) in a pair of GSAC doubleheaders that will determine whether or not Azusa Pacific advances into the postseason for the first time in 4 years.