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A Gem of Gems

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April 23, 2010
Gary Pine
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AZUSA, Calif. -- As the 2010 season heads toward the final month of play, freshmen Taryn Devich and Rita Kim are pitching like anything but rookies. They act more like seasoned veterans

The duo hurlers dominated Hope International all day long, leading Azusa Pacific to a pair of much-needed Golden State Athletic Conference victories, 4-0 and 8-0, and in the process they came within 2 outs of one of the most unique achievements ever in Azusa Pacific softball history – back-to-back no-hitters.

Initiated by Devich and continued by Kim, the pair held Hope International without a hit for 11.1 innings of play, employing an effort in the circle that nearly matched the picture-perfect weather Friday afternoon at the Cougar Softball Complex.

Devich, who has emerged as the ace of a pitching staff that centers around 3 freshmen, became just the ninth Cougar ever to toss a no-hitter and only the fourth to make it a 7-inning gem as she relied on a trio of pitches that kept HIU off balance and guessing the entire game. She struck out 6 of the first 9 Royals she faced and had a perfect game going through 4 innings of work. A couple of walks in the fifth inning, including one to start the frame, were her only blemishes on an otherwise fantastic effort in the circle.

She retired the final 7 batters of the game, finishing off the first no-hitter by a Cougar in 5 years when she got Royal Alexis Alonzo to ground out to shortstop Erin Halma. Devich finished with a career-high 10 strikeouts and ran her record to 12-8 while lowering her ERA to a team-best 1.40. Of the 11 Royals who made bat contact on the day, 7 flew out and 4 grounded out.

The Cougars offered Devich all the offense she needed in the opening inning of the game. Halma’s 1-out sacrifice fly to centerfield scored Angie Sprague who opened the inning with a bunt single, stole second and went to third on a Nicole Llorens’s sacrifice bunt.

The Cougars tacked on 2 more runs in the second when freshman Rachel Miller launched a 2-out missile over the leftfield fence for her team-leading third home run of the season.

In the third, Halma laced a 1-out triple to the wall in right-centerfield and then trotted home on Bekah Weisser’s sacrifice fly to close out the game’s scoring.

HIU’s Kayla Uphold came on in relief and fired 3.1 innings of 1-hit shutout softball, retiring 9 Cougars in a row at one point, but it was too late. Azusa Pacific had already made the most of 4 hits through the first 3 innings of the game.

In the second game, Kim was dominant from the outset, inducing a game-opening comebacker and fly out before striking out the next 7 Royals in a row. In fact, she retired the first 13 batters of the game, fashioning a perfect game until Leslie Coffee ripped a 1-0 Kim offering back up the middle for a single to center. It would prove to be the Royals’ only hit in 12 innings of play on the day. Kim finished with 8 strikeouts in her 1-hitter and pushed her record to 7-9 in the process.

Offensively, the Cougars tagged a pair of Royal pitchers, including Uphold, for runs in each of the first 3 innings, scooting out to an 8-0 lead that was highlighted by a 4-run third. Triples by Erika Marmolejo and Jac Harkey accounted for 3 runs in the inning. Miller then pushed Sprague home with a 2-out single to give Azusa Pacific that needed 8-run cushion to force the mercy-ruled victory.

Halma, the lone senior on the team who was playing in her 173rd game at Azusa Pacific, capped her final day at the Cougar Softball Complex with a 2-for-4 effort at the plate with 3 RBIs and raised her team-leading batting average to .336. Sprague was 3-for-5 with 4 runs and a pair of stolen bases. Miller was 3-for-4 with 4 RBIs, while Natalie Barnaby went 3-for-4 with 3 runs.

With the sweep the Cougars improve to 26-20 on the season and even their GSAC record at 11-11. Azusa Pacific closes out the regular-season Saturday (April 24) with a GSAC doubleheader at Point Loma Nazarene University. First pitch is set for noon. The game can be followed live through a live stats broadcast over the Internet.

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