GULF SHORES, Ala. -- The road out of pool play got much more treacherous for Azusa Pacific after a 5-4 defeat against tournament host University of Mobile (Ala.), which rallied for the tying and winning runs in the bottom of the seventh Friday afternoon.
The top of the Mobile lineup set up the Rams’ late-inning heroics, overcoming the Cougars’ 4-3 lead entering the bottom of the seventh. Leadoff hitter Mayles Rodriguez led off the frame with a double to left-center, and Holli McLeod singled to left-center to put runners on first and third with no outs. Jessica Rogers singled home the tying run before relief pitcher Taryn Devich retired the next 2 hitters on fly outs to shallow right. With Mobile down to its final out before extra innings, Jessica Swanson delivered the game-winning hit, a single to left-center scored McLeod from third base for the 5-4 walk-off victory over the Cougars.
The day after Azusa Pacific’s offense exploded for 16 hits in its 9-7 victory over St. Thomas (Fla.) to open pool play, the Cougars jumped out to another early lead with a 3-run, 3-hit first inning. A 1-out double from junior third baseman Olivia Wilcox scored the first 2 runs of the game, and Wilcox later scored on a bases-loaded walk before Mobile got out of trouble with a lineout double play. The Cougars got only 3 more hits the rest of the way and the only other run scored was unearned.
Mobile’s win keeps 3 teams in contention to win Pool H heading into Saturday’s final day of pool play. Oklahoma City, unbeaten thus far in 2 games, along with Azusa Pacific and Mobile at 1-1, could each win the pool, with a potential tiebreaker scenario coming into effect with a Cougar victory to determine the pool winner following tomorrow’s results.
In Saturday’s 2 p.m. (Central) pool play finale for Azusa Pacific, the Cougars play Oklahoma City in a rematch of NAIA title contenders in 2000, the year the Cougars made their last national tournament appearance before this season. Mobile plays St. Thomas in the 9 a.m. time slot, which should allow Azusa Pacific to know exactly what it must do in order to secure any tiebreaker advantages to win the pool.
A leadoff error in the second led to the Azusa Pacific run driven in by senior second baseman Nicole Llorens on a sacrifice fly that pushed the lead to 4-0. After it had gone scoreless in the first 3 innings off sophomore pitcher Rita Kim, Mobile got 3 runs back in the fourth to cut the lead to 4-3. Kim hit consecutive Mobile batters to put runners on base with 1 out, and both ended up scoring in the 3-run, 2-hit fourth-inning rally.
Azusa Pacific didn’t get another baserunner beyond first base from the third through fifth innings before sophomore catcher Jac Harkey hit a 1-out double down the left-field line in the sixth inning. Her pinch-runner moved to third base on an error but was stranded there on an infield popup.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific drops to 33-22 overall, while Mobile improves to 35-18.