AZUSA, Calif.-- A 2-1 victory in the first game against National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) No. 11-ranked Concordia ensured the Azusa Pacific a split in its Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) double header on Saturday. The Eagles won the nightcap with a 4-1 score at the Cougar Softball Complex.
Although the Cougars went down 1-0 in the first inning of the opening game on a Rita Kim wild pitch, the freshmen battled the rest of the game from the circle and kept the Eagles to just that 1 run the rest of the game.
“I tried to hit my spots as best as I could,” said Kim. “I didn’t have my speed today so I just had to rely on spin. Thankfully, every single ball that was hit, my defense was there to help me.”
A Rachel Miller was all the Azusa Pacific offense could muster through the first 4 inning; however defensively, the Cougars made plays to keep Concordia from scoring.
“I was really proud of the girls in both games, even though we lost the second game,” said head coach Carrie Webber. “I’m just proud of the way that we’re getting a little bit better each game. We’re starting to do that peak thing that you’re supposed to do at the end of the season.”
In the bottom of the sixth inning, freshman Angie Sprague bunted up the middle to put herself on first base and then stole second. Senior Erin Halma singled to center field to move Sprague up a base. When the Eagle centerfielder bobbles the ball, Sprague raced home to tied the game at 1-1. Halma scored on a Jac Harkey single just inside third base to give the Cougars a 2-1 lead.
“It was a clutch opportunity for me and I needed to get the job done,” said Harkey. “I knew the pitcher kept going outside with me so if she gave me that inside pitch, I knew I had to turn on it. She gave it to me and I was able to turn on it to get a hit.”
Harkey caught Concordia’s Alyssa Erickson stealing second in the top of the seventh and, with the help of the rest of the Cougar defense, Kim was able to hold the Eagles in the top of the seventh to claim the victory.
In the nightcap, freshman pitcher Taryn Devich yields just 2 hits and kept the Eagles scoreless through the first 5 innings of play.
Azusa Pacific took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth after Miller blasted her second home run of the season over the left field fence.
The Eagles touched up Devich in the top of the sixth after Katie Carson tripled to lead off the inning. Jennifer Simons doubled to plate Carson and tie the game at 1-1.
Sophomore Natalie Barnaby singled in the bottom of the sixth, but the Cougars were unable to answer the Eagles and kept the score within reach going into the seventh.
The top of the seventh started with Devich getting the first 2 batters out, but the Cougars were not able to keep the Eagles subdued. Three consecutive singles up the middle plated a run to put Concordia up 2-1 when Alyssa Erickson beat Barnaby’s throw from centerfield.
“I was thinking that I really needed to get the out, but I knew if the ball got past me then it would be worse,” said Harkey who took Barnaby’s throw off the chest. “I was trying to catch the ball, but it was too short of a hop so it just kind of came off me and I did the best I could with it.”
Eagle Brieana Eckel then stole home, and Simmons singled to right to score another run and give the Eagles an insurmountable 4-1 lead going into the bottom of the seventh.
Halma singled in the bottom of the seventh, but the Cougars could not string together any more hits to bring her home, allowing the NAIA’s No. 11-ranked Eagles to escape with a split.
“I think sweeping the No. 2 team and splitting with the No. 11 team should give us some credibility in the nation as far as what type of team we are,” said Webber. “We struggled a little in the beginning, but I think we’re starting to be a bit more consistent right now at the end of the season so this is huge for us. It definitely shows that we are at least a top 25 level team to contend with and I hope that that shows in the next poll we see.”
With the split, the Cougars are now 21-15 overall, 7-7 in GSAC, whles the Eagles are 27-11 overall, 8-6 in GSAC. Azusa Pacific host NAIA No.1-ranked California Baptist on Tuesday, March 30 at 4 p.m. at the Cougar Softball Complex.