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3 months ago

Squeezed Out Again

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May 5, 2011
Gary Pine
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RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Four hours later and less than a hundred yards from where Cougar baseball had its postseason run come to end, so too did Azusa Pacific softball – and in an eerily similar fashion.

April Vasquez’s suicide squeeze scored Kendall Gorham from third base with 1 out in the tenth inning to lift the NAIA’s No. 1-ranked California Baptist University to a 4-3 victory over No. 8 Azusa Pacific in the second game of the GSAC Tournament Championship Series. The Lancers won the first game, 8-0, and with the sweep clinched the GSAC’s automatic berth into the NAIA Softball Championship Tournament later this month.

Azusa Pacific now must wait until Tuesday (May 10) afternoon when word will come from the NAIA national office as to whether or not the Cougars will be awarded 1 of 5 at-large berths available for the 32-team national championship tournament field.

The wait may prove to be as excruciating as tonight’s second-game setback.

Behind the pitching and hitting of sophomores Rita Kim, Taryn Devich and Brandi Andrews, the Cougars took a 3-0 lead into the seventh inning against one of the NAIA’s top offensive units.

Andrews had slugged a 2-run home run in the second inning, her sixth-round tripper of the season, and Kim and Devich had held the Lancers scoreless and to a mere 4 hits. The Cougars were in control. And though the Lancers touched-up Devich for a run in the seventh, Azusa Pacific was still up by 2 runs and just an out away from winning the game and forcing a third and decisive contest Friday afternoon.

Gorham, however, had other plans. The All-GSAC outfield launched a 1-0 Devich offering high into night of the right field sky, sending Andrews on the run toward the wall. As Andrews turned and extended her glove for the catch while still on the run, the ball sailed just out of her reach, allowing Briana Corral and Mara Rodriguez to score from second and first base, respectively, and tie the game at 3-3, and forcing extra innings.

Devich and Cal Baptist’s Emma Holden, both members of the 2011 All-GSAC team, then locked into a pitcher’s duel until Gorham induced a leadoff walk to start the tenth. A sacrifice bunt moved her to second base and a flare single to right put her at third to set up Vasquez’s suicide bunt.

Holden, who had already pitched 3 innings of no-hit relief, worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the tenth, striking out a pair of Cougars along the way, to secure the Lancers’ comeback victory.

Andrews’ bomb was 1 of 2 hits she had in the game. She singled in the fourth inning to put runners at first and third with 1 out. However, Azusa Pacific couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity.

In the fifth Angie Sprague singled to left and stole second base. Nicole Lloren’s single up the middle sent Sprague home with a much-needed insurance run.

In the meantime, Kim was surprisingly cruising. In her first start since a shoulder injury sidelined her over a month ago, Kim surrendered just 3 hits through 4.1 innings of work, yielding to Devich with 2 on and 1 out in the fifth. Devich struck out the first Lancer she faced and got the other to fly out to end the threat.

In the first game, Cal Baptist parlayed a lead-off walk into the game’s only run for the first 5 innings of play. Cougar hurler Mariah Worley was otherwise quite sharp until tiring in the sixth and giving way to Kim.

In the sixth, Cal Baptist strung together 5 hits, including a 2-run home by Lindsay Henry to break open a tight game.

Holden was masterful in the circle for Cal Baptist, taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning. Cougar catcher Jac Harkey’s 1-out single to left was the Cougars first safety of the game. When Natalie Barnaby followed with an infield single, the Cougars had the bases loaded with 2 outs. However, Holden struck out Sprague on a 3-2 count for 1 of her 16 punch-outs in the game to end the threat. She retired 7 of the final 8 batters she faced, surrendering another Harkey single in the seventh.

With the sweep Cal Baptist improves to 59-3. Azusa Pacific falls to 32-21.