AZUSA, Calif. – Azusa Pacific got 12 innings of 1-run pitching from a pair of freshmen, but it wasn’t enough for the unranked Cougars to pull off a surprising GSAC-opening sweep of the NAIA’s No. 11-ranked Concordia University. Instead, the Cougars settled for a split, taking the first game, 3-0, before falling in the nightcap, 5-1.
Freshman Taryn Devich was dazzling in the circle in the opening game, scattering 7 hits over 7 innings of work and leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh to hang on for her first ever collegiate shutout in 8 outings this season.
Devich has been a most pleasant surprise out of Los Alamitos (Calif.) High and has emerged as the ace of a young Cougar staff. She struck out 5 Eagles in the game and did not walk a batter.
She got all the help she needed in the opening inning when the Cougars tagged Concordia ace Rachel Reekstin with 3 runs on 4 hits. Bekah Weisser’s 1-out double to the gap in leftfield scored Natalie Barnaby and Erin Halma, both of whom had singled earlier in the inning. Weisser then trotted home on Erika Marmolejo’s single up the middle to give Devich a 3-0 cushion before she ever delivered her first pitch of the game.
Devich held Concordia hitless through the first 3 innings. Back-to-back singles to start the bottom of the fourth ended Devich’s flirtation with a no-no and promptly put her in a jam. However, she got Shannon Walton to pop out to Barnaby in shallow center for the first out, and then relied on some sparkling Cougar defense to get out of the inning unscathed. With runners at the corners, Devich induced a grounder to second for the second out, and as Eagle Alexis Vernon delayed her break from third base, Marmolejo wheeled off the bag at first and threw a strike to Cougar catcher Jac Harkey, who tagged Vernon for the inning’s final out, preserving the shutout.
Devich cruised the rest of the way until the seventh when Concordia strung together 3 consecutive 1-out singles to load the bases. Unfazed by the pressure of the situation, Devich struck out pinch-hitter Melanie Hansen on a 1-2 pitch. Concordia leadoff hitter Kaite Carson then lined out to Heather Koch in leftfield to end the threat and the game.
Perhaps inspired by her fellow freshman, Rita Kim was arguably even sharper than Devich in the circle during the second game. She gave up a game-opening double to Carson who came home 2 batters later on a single through the left side to give Concordia a quick 1-0 lead. However, Kim settled and retired the next 14 consecutive Eagles.
However, the Cougars could not punch through on Concordia hurler Morgan Reiter and managed just 4 base runners in 6 innings of play.
In the bottom of the sixth, the wheels fell off for a gassed Kim, who opened the frame with back-to-back walks. Concordia took advantage by following with 3 singles to plate 4 runs and assume a comfortable 5-0 lead heading into the seventh.
The Cougars averted the shutout in the top of the seventh when Harkey’s 2-out single up the middle scored Weisser from third before Reiter got the final out to secure the split.
On the day, Weisser and Halma each went 3-for-6 at the plate with doubles
With the split, the Cougars move to 8-8 on the season and open GSAC play at 1-1. Concordia is now 10-6 overall, 1-1 in the GSAC.
Azusa Pacific returns home for the first time in over 2 weeks when the Cougars host Cornerstone University out of Michigan in a noon doubleheader Friday (March 4) at the Cougar Softball Complex.