AZUSA, Calif. -- After posting its first season-opening three-game winning streak since 2008, the NAIA’s No. 11-ranked Azusa Pacific suffered a tough-luck loss in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader split with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, dropping a 4-0 decision after winning the first game of the twinbill by an 8-2 margin.
Brandi Andrews went three-for-four in the opener, scoring twice and driving in two more, and Erika Marmolejo smashed her first home run of the season, a two-run sixth-inning shot over the left-center field fence, in a two-for-four performance.
Andrews and Heather Koch led off the second with back-to-back singles, and both came around to score on fielder’s choice grounders to give the Cougars a 2-0 lead. Andrews drove in another run with a single to left in the third inning, pushing the lead to 3-0, and she got a three-run fifth going with a two-out RBI double down the right field line.
Mariah Worley struck out eight in five innings to pick up the win in her first appearance of 2012, and Rita Kim added four more strikeouts as she finished the game with two scoreless innings of relief.
In the second game, the Cougars’ fourth contest in a span of less than 24 hours to kick off the year, managed only three hits off Claremont ace Rebecca Gularte, who retired 12 straight after loading the bases with two outs in the bottom of the second inning. The Azusa Pacific offense averaged five runs and eight hits through the season’s first three games, but the Cougars couldn’t get hits to drop in against Gularte in the weekend finale.
Claremont got on the board with an unearned first-inning run, and Gularte got out of a difficult second-inning jam to preserve the early lead. Andrews hit a one-out double in the frame, and Jac Harkey added a two-out single and stolen base before Leslie-Anne Picone drew a walk to load the bases. Gularte struck out the next batter, however, and she retired 11 more in a row before giving up a one-out single in the seventh.
The Athenas came up with three runs on three hits in the seventh off Taryn Devich, who had fired a complete-game win the night before against Redlands and had surrendered just one unearned run on three hits until the final frame.
The split leaves Azusa Pacific at 3-1 to start the year, while Claremont-Mudd-Scripps opens the year with a 1-1 mark. The Cougars are back in action with a six-game slate at next weekend’s Simpson University Tournament in Redding, Calif.