AZUSA, Calif. -- With no idea when their partner, Rita Kim, will return from an injury, fellow sophomore pitchers Mariah Worley and Taryn Devich literally have shouldered all the pitching for Azusa Pacific, and the duo has shined.
Since Kim went down back on April 2, Devich and Worley have pitched all 61.1 and led the Cougars to victory in 6 of 9 games. However, the performance they turned in Saturday was nearly “pitcher perfect” and will be difficult to reproduce.
Devich and Worley combined to work 16 innings without allowing an earned run and paced the NAIA’s No. 19-ranked Azusa Pacific to a Golden State Athletic Conference sweep of Vanguard, beating the Lions 2-0 behind Devich’s effort in the first game and then taking a 3-1 decision in the nightcap in which Worley worked all 9 innings.
In the opening game Devich was masterful at the start and at the end, retiring the first 8 batters she faced and the final 6. In the middle, she surrendered a couple of hits, none of which hurt her, and a walk, which was eventually was wiped out on a sparkling play in the bottom of the fifth in which Cougar centerfield Angie Sprague gunned down Devyn Choltko as she tried to score from second base on a Kimberly Skoglund single.
Azusa Pacific broke a scoreless tie in the top of the fifth when Natalie Barnaby ripped a 2-out triple down the leftfield line and came home on Sprague’s infield single. The Cougars added an insurance run in the sixth when Brandi Andrews laced a 2-out single to left to score Olivia Wilcox who had doubled to account for 1 of the Cougars’ 8 hits in the game.
Since March 22 Devich is 5-1 with a 1.74 ERA, firing a trio of complete games while striking out 36 in 44.1 innings. On the season she improves to 9-6.
In the second game, Worley was locked in a pitchers’ duel with a pair of Lion hurlers. She allowed just 4 hits over 9 innings, striking out 4 and walking one in the process. She escaped trouble in the first, third, fifth and eighth innings when Vanguard got a runner to third base each time, including 3 times with just 1 out, and yet did not yield what would have been the game-winning run.
Azusa Pacific finally got on the scoreboard in the top of the ninth, taking advantage of an error to score the game’s first run. Singles by Sprague and Nicole Llorens pushed across 2 more runs to give Worley a comfortable 3-run advantage.
Relying the international tie-breaker, Vanguard scored an unearned run in the ninth off a bunt and a sacrifice fly but could muster nothing more off Worley, who moves to 9-5 on the season.
On the day, Andrews went 3-for-7 with a double and an RBI and pushed her batting average to .286 on the season. Wilcox, Barnaby, Sprague, Llorens and Heather Koch all had 2 hits.