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Finally, A Cause to Celebrate

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April 9, 2011
Gary Pine
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AZUSA, Calif. -- No one in the Golden State Athletic Conference has given the NAIA’s No. 1-ranked California Baptist a better run for its league lead than Azusa Pacific, but the Cougars had nothing to show for it -- until 4:25 p.m. Saturday afternoon. That’s when relief pitcher Taryn Devich rifled a 3-2 fastball past an idly watching Kendall Gorham to end the game, snap CBU’s 31-game winning streak, and secure Azusa Pacific’s surprising 2-1 victory in the nightcap of a GSAC doubleheader. Cal Baptist won the first game, 5-2.

Through the first 3 meetings this year, Cal Baptist had beaten the Cougars by a combined 9 runs. On average, the Lancers were beating every other GSAC foe by 7 runs per game. The Cougars, though, could stay close, but without victory.

“For some reason we always play Cal Baptist tough, we always respond to them,” said fourth-year Azusa Pacific Head Coach Carrie Webber. “Our pitchers seem to focus, and our offense, though we don’t score a lot of runs, puts pressure on them. People say Biola is supposed to be our rival, but we always play Cal Baptist so well and so tough. It’s fun to play them. To us, they are our rival.”

Typically, it is one inning that has done in the Cougars each time they face Cal Baptist, and such was the case again in the first game. So when in the second game Brandi Andrews ripped a 2-out triple to the right field wall to score Olivia Wilcox from first base to put Azusa Pacific up 2-1 in the fourth inning, the Cougars braced for a Lancer big inning. It never came, though, because of Devich.

“They are capable of putting those runs on,” said Webber, “but the way our pitchers were throwing, you could tell they knew they were in trouble. The pressure was all on Cal Baptist.”

The sophomore Devich, who took the loss in the first game after surrendering 5 runs in just 3.1 innings of work, fired 3.2 innings of no-hit softball in the second game, striking out 5 in the process to slam the door on any potential Lancer rally.

Azusa Pacific managed just 2 hits in the game, Andrews’ game-winning triple in the fourth, and Angie Sprague’s lead-off bunt single in the first inning. A ground-out and wild pitch put her at third base, and when Wilcox hit a grounder to first, Sprague raced home, beating the tag and giving the Cougars a quick 1-0 lead off All-GSAC pitcher Tory Ferreira.

Cougar pitcher Mariah Worley, who was dazzling in 3.2 innings of shutout relief of Devich in the first game, kept the Lancers off-balance through the first 3 innings of the second game. In the fourth, though, a leadoff double by Mara Rodriquez followed by sharp singles by Nicole Shoemaker and April Vasquez not only tied the game, but they put the Lancers in place to take the lead.

Enter Devich who ended the threat unscathed on 5 pitches.

“The change-up is one of my strongest pitches, but it was off in the first game,” said Devich. “I adjusted in the second game by staying open more to clear and get my arm through. I threw my pinky at the ball instead of my knuckles. Making a tiny adjustment made all the difference between the first and second games.”

Meanwhile, Ferreira was motoring through the Cougar line-up. She retired 16 of the final 18 Cougars she faced, striking out 5. Yet the 2 she couldn’t get out cost her the game and her perfect record on the season. She walked Wilcox on 5 pitches with one out the fourth, and then got Ericka Marmolejo to lift a deep foul ball into right field that Rodriguez caught for the second out. Down 2-0 to Andrews, Ferreira caught too much of the plate on a fastball that Andrews laced over Rodriguez’s head and off the right field wall. Wilcox was gone on contact and circled the base paths so quickly that she didn’t even draw a throw to home.

“I honestly thought it was just a fly ball out, but when I hit first base, I saw the ball go over her head and said ‘thank you!’” said Andrews. “I can’t tell you how many butterflies I had over the final 3 innings. I just tried to stay calm and play the best defense I could.”

The rest was up to Devich, who was in control her entire time in the circle, and even got some help from catcher Bekah Weisser.

“It was the Taryn we’re used to seeing,” said Webber. “She was determined. She was focused. You could tell by her demeanor in the circle that she had that kind of stoic confidence. When she went out for the seventh inning, she said ‘Don’t worry coach, I got this.’”

In the top of the seventh, Lancer Briana Corral reached first base on a 1-out throwing error. Marshean August, who is second on the team with 10 stolen bases and had been thrown out just once this season, replaced Corral as a pinch runner. Four pitches later, Weisser, from her knees, gunned down August as she tried to swipe second. Two pitches later, Devich struck out Gorham for her fifth punch out of the game.

“Bekah was money with the throw,” said Webber. “It was a perfect throw, right at the bottom of the bag. The girl, who I don’t think got a good jump off first, was dead by a mile. Bekah was so clutch. It was like nail … coffin … done.”

The victory was the Cougars’ first over CBU since a 2-0 decision in Azusa in 2009 and snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Lancers.

In the first game, Rodriguez sparked a 3-run fourth inning with a lead-off home run that propelled the Lancers to the victory. It was the second of 2 solo home runs the Lancers hit off Devich. Vasquez cranked her sixth home run over the leftfield wall with 2 outs in the second inning to put the Lancers up for good at 2-1.

No Cougar had more than 1 hit on the day. Andrews was 1-for-3 with a pair of RBIs. In the first game she was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to tie the game at 1-1 in the first inning.

With the split, the Cougars moves to 21-17 overall, 6-6 in the GSAC. Cal Baptist is now 48-2 overall, 11-1 in the GSAC.