AZUSA, Calif. – Junior second baseman Nicole Llorens’ suicide squeeze with 1 out in the bottom of the eighth lifted Azusa Pacific to a 3-2 victory to guarantee a split of its season-opening doubleheader with the University of Redlands. The Bulldogs used a 5-run fifth inning to take the nightcap, 9-4.
In the first game, Azusa Pacific rallied from a 2-0 deficit, relying on the clutch play of a freshmen to set up Llorens’ heroics. With the Cougars still down 2-0 to open the bottom of the seventh, junior Bekah Weisser induced a leadoff walk off Bulldog hurler Olivia Ellis. Freshman catcher Jac Harkey followed with a 1-out gapper to right-center for her first collegiate hit to score Weisser from first base. As Harkey stretched the hit into a triple, Bulldog second baseman Molly Duran fired an errant relay to third that allowed Harkey to race home with game-tying run. Fellow freshman Brandi Andrews followed with a pinch-hit double to centerfield for her first collegiate hit as well, but she was stranded when Ellis retired the next 2 Cougars to send the game into extra innings.
In the top of the eighth, Redlands put runners and second and third base with no outs off freshman pitcher Taryn Devich. The rookie, who had danced in and out of trouble trough 3 previous innings of relief work again dodged the bullet when she got Lizett Casillas to ground back to the circle for the first out. Bulldog outfielder Sarah Beeman, who had hits in her 3 previous plate appearances, lined out to Llorens at second base, who threw to shortstop Erin Halma to double off Nicky Neumann and end the threat.
Devich picked up the win with 4 innings of shutout relief of fellow freshman Mariah Worley, who herself had allowed just 3 hits and no earned runs in 4 innings of work in her collegiate debut.
In the second game, the Cougars parlayed 2 walks and a pair of singles, including a run-scoring shot up the middle off Andrews’ bat, to take a 2-0 lead through 4 innings of play.
Halma, who had allowed just 1 hit through the first 4 innings of pitching, got tagged for 4 hits in the top of the fifth, including a 2-run triple and a 2-run home that allowed Redlands to assume a 5-2 lead.
An unearned run moved the Bulldog lead to 6-2 before the Cougars answered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth. Freshman Rachel Miller’s first collegiate hit scored Natalie Burnaby to pull the Cougars to within 2 at 6-4 at the end of the sixth.
Redlands, though, parlayed 3 hits and a Cougar error into 3 more runs in the top of the seventh to clinch its first-ever win over Azusa Pacific in 12 meetings.
Andrews, who came to Azusa Pacific out of nearby Glendora (Calif.) High, had a marvelous night in her first collegiate action, going 4-for-5 in the doubleheader with 2 doubles and an RBI. Harkey finished the twinbill 2-for-3.