SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Rachel Miller’s 2-out single down the right-field line in the top of the seventh scored pinch runner Heather Koch from third base to lift Azusa Pacific to a 1-0 victory over the NAIA’s No. 8-ranked Point Loma Nazarene in the opening game of what proved to be a split of a regular-season-ending Golden State Athletic Conference doubleheader Saturday afternoon in San Diego. The Sea Lions won the second game, 2-0.
Miller, who has been on a tear of late, nearly broke a scoreless tie in the sixth inning but was forced out at home on a bases loaded groundout. In the seventh, however, she made sure the Cougars would cash in on its third scoring opportunity of the game, and then leave the rest up to fellow freshman Rita Kim and her masterful pitching.
Azusa Pacific managed just 1 hit through the first 5 innings of play, but in the seventh Jac Harkey led off with a double down the right field line. With Koch running for Harkey, a 1-out sacrifice bunt by Natalie Barnaby moved Koch to third base. Miller followed by poking a 1-0 offering from Sea Lion pitcher Tyler Lent down the right field line to push Koch home with the game’s only run.
Kim, who struggled early in the game, having to wiggle out of a bases-loaded jam in the second inning, settled down over the final 4 innings of play, allowing just 3 hits and retiring 7 of the last 8 Sea Lions. Point Loma could not mount a threat off Kim in the bottom of the seventh.
Kim allowed 5 hits, struck out 2 and did not walk a batter, but she did hit 3 batters. Combined with yesterday’s 1-hit shutout of Hope International, Kim has strung together 20.1 innings without allowing an earned run. Now 8-9 on the season, Kim has lowered her ERA to 1.94 heading into the playoffs.
In the second game, back-to-back 2-out singles by Point Loma’s Jessie Owens and Samantha Hall resulted in a pair of fourth-inning runs, and the pitching of Kira Wommer and Lent made them stand up as the Sea Lions hung on for their only victory in 4 meetings with Azusa Pacific this season.
Back in the circle less than 24 hours after tossing a no-hitter in yesterday’s win over Hope International, Cougar pitcher Taryn Devich struggled with her command from the opening pitch but battled through the first 3 innings and kept the Sea Lions off the scoreboard. The Cougar defense helped by throwing out a pair of runners at the plate, and coming up with the big outs despite the fact that Point Loma put 6 runners in scoring position.
When it appeared that Devich would finally have an easy inning, the Sea Lions rallied back to registered the game’s only runs. Devich got the first 2 outs of the fourth inning on routine ground-outs, but a single, a walk and wild pitch put Devich back in trouble and Owens and Hall cashed in for Point Loma.
Azusa Pacific was held to just 4 hits in the second game and managed just 1 safety over the final 3 innings. The Cougars went down in order in the bottom of the seventh.
Devich, who gave up 9 hits, walked 2 and struck out 2, falls to 12-9 on the season.
Miller finished the day 3-for-4 with the 1 game-winning RBI. She is 6-for-8 at the plate over the past 4 games. Senior Erin Halma, who was 2-for-5 on the day, extends his hitting streak to 5 games and raises her team-leading batting average to .338.
With split, the Cougars moves to 27-21 on the season, their best regular-season record since 2005. They close out GSAC play at 12-12 in fourth place in the final standings.
Azusa Pacific takes off next week and returns to the diamond to open the Second Annual GSAC Postseason Tournament the following week. In a repeat of last year’s first-round action, the Cougars will take on Biola University, Tuesday, May 4, in a single-elimination game at California Baptist University in Riverside, Calif. The start time of that game has yet to be determined. That winner will then meet No. 1-ranked California Baptist in a best 2-of-3 series that begins May 4 and concludes the following day, Wednesday, May 5.