AZUSA, Calif. -- For the second time in 3 days freshman Lindsey Clark was the hero of the hour, this time lining a 1-out single up the middle to cap a dramatic come-from-behind victory and give Azusa Pacific a 5-4 victory over Vanguard in the second game of a key GSAC doubleheader Saturday afternoon at the Cougar Softball Complex.
The Lions won the first game 2-0.
Clark’s lone safety of the day was just 1 of several clutch hits the Cougars produced in extra innings to overcome several challenges the Lions consistently laid before Azusa Pacific.
After Vanguard forced extra innings with a run in the top of the seventh inning and then tacked on another in the top of the eighth to take a 3-2 lead, Azusa Pacific answered when Nicole Llorens lifted a fly ball to centerfield to score Rita Kim from third base and push the game into the ninth.
Again Vanguard scored to go up 4-3, but the Cougars responded in their half of the ninth. With Erin Halma on second to start the frame, Bekah Weisser hit a sharp grounder to third that Lion Libby Archer cleanly fielded. However, she was forced to give attention to Halma dancing back and forth from second and thus had to hurry her throw to first, pulling Stephanie Leisenring off with a high throw that allowed Weisser to be safe.
Sophomore Erika Marmolejo followed with a single through the left side to score Halma and tie the game at 3-3. A Natalie Barnaby sacrifice bunt pushed Weisser and Marmolejo to third and second, respectively, setting the table for Clark, who 2 innings before had struck out on 3 pitches against Lion hurler Stacie Salazar. This time, however, Clark went after Salazar’s first pitch and sent it back up the middle into centerfield to easily score Weisser with the game-winning run.
“Every conference win is a big one,” said Cougar Head Coach Carrie Webbier, “but after dropping the first game, to come back in the fashion that we won this one is really a confidence booster for us heading into next week.”
The Cougars, who were held to just 3 hits in the first game, regained their offensive swing in the second game, tallying 11 hits. Yet they continually squandered opportunities. They had 6 runners reach at least second base through the first 3 innings but couldn’t plate any of them, and in fact, they left the bases loaded in the third.
Kim, however, led off the fourth inning with triple to the wall in left-centerfield. Fellow freshman Angie Sprague followed with a seeing-eye single between the shortstop and third baseman to score Kim and tie the game at 1-1.
With 1-out in the fifth, the left-handed-hitting Sprague entered center stage with a bouncer just inside the third base bag that rolled to the wall for a triple. Rachel Miller’s 2-out single that was just out the reach of the Lion shortstop scored Sprague to give Azusa Pacific its first lead of the day at 2-1.
Kim, who had been sharp in the circle all game by allowing just 2 hits through the first 6 innings, hiccupped in the seventh by surrendering a leadoff double to Angela St. Croix’s, who eventually came home on a 1-out single to tie the game at 2-2. Still, Kim was impressive, working 7.1 innings while allowing just 4 hits.
In the first game, Azusa Pacific’s Taryn Devich and Vanguard’s Melissa Forrester locked horns in a classic pitchers’ duel for the first 5 innings of play. Both players matched each other pitch-for-pitch, each allowing just 2 hits while registering 3 strikeouts. In addition, both of them got out of jams with a runner at third and just 1 out.
In the end, though, it was Devich who blinked first. Vanguard’s Amanda Omahen led off the sixth with a single to right-center. With 1 out she stole second and moved to third on a ground out. Cougar catcher Jac Harckey, who is batting an injured thumb, let a Devich pitch carom off her glove and to the backstop, allowing Omahen to race in with the game’s first run. A subsequent single and double produced an inconsequential Lion run.
Azusa Pacific could not mount a response against Forrester, who retired 6 of the final 7 Cougars to post her first complete-game shutout of the season.
Though Devich suffered the loss in the first game, she did pick up the win in the nightcap, striking out the only 2 batters she faced, finishing off the ninth inning when Vanguard had runners at first and second. Devich’s record moves to 8-4.
Sprague finished the day by going 4-for-6 at the plate with a run and an RBI. Marmolejo, Halma and Miller all had 2 hits in the second game.
With the split, Azusa Pacific is now 13-11 on the season, 2-4 in the GSAC. Vanguard is 14-10 overall, 2-4 in the GSAC.