AZUSA, Calif. -- Junior pitcher Rita Kim tossed her first career no-hitter, a five-inning gem in the first of two mercy-rule wins over Felician (N.J.) College by identical 9-0 scores Saturday afternoon.
“I knew she had thrown a really good game, especially after she had struggled in her last couple of outings,” Cougar head coach Carrie Webber said. “It was really nice to see her get into a groove and pitch the way we know she is capable of, and the fact that it was a no-hitter was a cherry on top. It was fun to watch, because as a coach it makes you think your job is easy.”
Kim struck out three in the win and retired 15 of the 17 batters she faced, allowing baserunners after issuing a first-inning walk and a hit-batsman in the third inning. All three of her strikeouts came in the third, starting run of eight consecutive hitters retired to finish the game.
“I didn’t realize what had happened until at least 10 minutes after the game,” Kim said. “It felt great, because when you trust your defense you can throw pretty much anything and know they’re going to make plays for you. I may not have gotten as many strikeouts, but I had a lot of trust in my defense.”
The Cougars sent 13 hitters to the plate in the third inning, extending a 1-0 lead with the eight-run outburst. Junior Heather Koch got the scoring started with a one-out solo home run to left field, her second homer of the year and second this week, and the next six batters that followed her all reached safely with either base hits or walks.
Senior third baseman Olivia Wilcox, who was three-for-three on the game, had two hits in the third, a one-out double and a two-run, two-out single that put the Cougars ahead by nine after three innings.
“The way we produced runs in the first game was through base hits and walks, and that shows discipline at the plate,” Webber said. “Being able to put those runs together shows the type of improvement and adjustment at the plate we’re working for week after week.”
In the second game, Azusa Pacific scored all nine of its runs on three home runs, two of them off the bat of junior outfielder Rachel Miller. Senior first baseman Erika Marmolejo provided the other, a one-out grand slam down the left-field line that broke a scoreless tie and sparked a seven-run outburst in the bottom of the third inning.
“We were seeing the ball really well,” said Miller, who drove in six runs on the day including five RBIs on her two home runs in the nightcap. “Even though they kept switching pitchers on us, we just continued to see it well all day.”
Marmolejo’s momentum-turning blast was followed by a Brandi Andrews double to right, and senior second baseman Leslie-Anne Picone drew a walk and stole a base to put runners at second and third for Miller with one out in the third. Miller ripped a full-count offering from Felician starter Kristen Tenwolde to deep left-center field, where the ball bounced off the fence and rolled back through the outfield grass towards the infield.
Miller raced all the way around the bases for the inside-the-park three-run home run, and an inning later she smashed a more conventional two-out, two-run home run by blasting Tenwolde’s 2-1 pitch over the left-center field fence.
“The home runs in the second game were great,” Webber said. “We scored nine runs on three home runs, but I’d rather string together some more hits and get our runs that way. Still, it’s hard to complain about hitting three home runs.”
Miller and senior shortstop Natalie Barnaby each collected two hits in the five-inning nightcap, and junior pitcher Mariah Worley fired five two-hit innings and struck out one to pick up the win and improve to 6-0 on the season.
The Cougars, who improved to 16-4 on the season, are back in action on Tuesday, March 6, to host Menlo College at 1 p.m. before departing the Azusa Pacific campus for a four-game set at the Tucson Invitational Games later next week.