AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific was down to its final out as it faced a potential doubleheader sweep against the NCAA Div. II’s No. 22-ranked Hawai’i Pacific Thursday evening, but junior leftfielder Heather Koch kept the Cougars alive with a two-out triple and error in the bottom of the seventh to help salvage a doubleheader split with a 7-6 extra-inning triumph after dropping the opener, 8-5.
Koch, who doubled in the opener, drilled a 2-1 offering from Sea Warriors pitcher Melissa Kirby to straightaway center over the outstretched glove of centerfielder Keila Elderts, who initially took a step forward only to recover too late to make the catch. When the relay throw was off the mark, Koch rounded third and slid safely into home for a triple and game-tying extra base on the error (video below filmed by Rob Small).
After junior pitcher Mariah Worley stranded Hawai’i Pacific’s extra runner at third in the top of the eighth, the Cougars were in danger of leaving their own runner at third base in the bottom half of the frame until junior rightfielder Brandi Andrews delivered a two-out double to right-center that brought Natalie Barnaby home for the game-winning run.
Those were two of Azusa Pacific’s nine two-out runs scored on the day, with all five runs in the first game coming with two outs and another four scoring with two outs in the nightcap. Andrews finished the game going four-for-five with three RBIs, two of them with two outs.
“Our consistency is something we’ll continue to try to develop,” Cougar head coach Carrie Webber said. “We hit the ball really well tonight, but we tended to hit right at them. That happens sometimes, and when it does you just keep hitting the ball and hopefully some things start to fall for you. We kept pushing and chipping away, and we were able to capitalize late.”
Andrews also recorded an outfield assist on an inning-ending double play that kept Hawai’i Pacific scoreless in the second inning, and she ran down a pair of line drives down the right-field line in the seventh and eighth innings to help keep the Sea Warriors off the scoreboard late in the contest. In addition, Andrews had a hand in another double play in the first game, snagging another liner in shallow right before doubling the runner off first base with the Cougars trailing by two runs in the sixth.
The Cougars out-hit Hawai’i Pacific in both games of the doubleheader, but the middle of the Sea Warriors lineup delivered big hits in timely situations. In the opener, catcher Nicole Morrow hit a two-run home run to left that tied the game at 3-3 in the top of the fourth inning. An inning later, designated player Brittany Fenumiai smashed a three-run home run that broke a 3-3 tie with two outs in the top of the fifth.
“Our pitching was a little off tonight, and when your pitching is off, that gives your opponent the opportunity to capitalize offensively,” Webber said. “That’s exactly what they did. In the second game, we played much better, and overall I felt this was a good showing for us and helped us put a good foot forward towards next year when we join the conference Hawai’i Pacific is in (Pacific West Conference).”
Azusa Pacific chipped away at the lead with single runs in the fifth and sixth innings, both with two outs, but Chante Tesoro led off the Hawai’i Pacific seventh with a double that set the table for a two-run frame and provide the final 8-5 margin. Breanne Patton went the distance in the circle for the Sea Warriors, collecting the win despite surrendering five runs on 11 hits in the contest. Fenumiai, Morrow, Tesoro, and Maile Kim each tallied two hits in the first game. The Cougar offense was paced by senior first baseman Erika Marmolejo’s three-hit performance, and she was joined by three others with two hits each.
“Our offense is being fairly aggressive at the plate,” Webber said. “Right now we might even be a little over-aggressive, swinging at pitches outside the strike zone, but for the most part I’m pleased with the way our offense is attacking the ball with confidence that we’re going to hit.”
In game two, Azusa Pacific jumped out to a 3-0 lead, scoring two on back-to-back RBI singles from Andrews and Marmolejo in the first inning, while junior centerfielder Brittni Moreno dropped in a one-out run-scoring single in the bottom of the second.
Hawai’i Pacific responded with a five-run outburst, which started with Maile Kim’s two-run home run with one out in the top of the third inning and became extended due to Azusa Pacific miscues in the field. A surefire double-play grounder with the bases loaded that would have ended the inning with the Cougars in front resulted in a fielder’s choice, as Angie Sprague tagged out the runner between first and second and fired a throw to first that got past Marmolejo and allowed two runs to score. Then, a solid single to center rolled through Moreno’s legs to the center field wall, allowing another run to score from first base one the play to give the Sea Warriors a 5-3 lead.
A two-out wild pitch allowed Rachel Miller to score from third just one pitch before Koch grounded out to third to end the inning. That two-out run cut the lead to 5-4, and Andrews’ two-out single in the bottom of the fourth tied the game at 5-5 that helped set up the dramatic finish.
All eight of Azusa Pacific’s starting position players hit safely in the second game, with each of the first five hitters in the lineup notching at least two hits. Andrews led the way with her four-for-five, three-RBI performance, and Worley collected the win with a scoreless inning of relief to improve to 5-0 on the year.
With the split, Azusa Pacific is now 11-3 overall, while Hawai’i Pacific drops to 7-3 with all three losses coming on the Sea Warriors’ current trip through southern California.
The Cougars return to action on Tuesday, Feb. 29, hosting Lake Superior State (Mich.) at 4 p.m.