AZUSA, Calif. -- The high-powered offense of the NAIA’s No. 3-ranked Concordia lived up to its billing in a doubleheader sweep of No. 9-ranked Azusa Pacific Saturday afternoon in Azusa.
The Eagles scored 16 runs on the day, eight in each game, to post 8-3 and 8-4 wins over the Cougars, who scored all seven of their runs on the day in the third inning of each contest. The sweep extended Concordia’s winning streak to 37 games, while snapping Azusa Pacific’s run of 15 consecutive wins. The Eagles are now 44-2 overall and remain unbeaten in GSAC play at 8-0, while the Cougars dropped to 28-6 overall, 2-2 GSAC.
“Concordia played two very good games today, and they definitely deserved to win them,” Cougar head coach Carrie Webber said. “They just fought harder for 14 innings than we did. I think they’re the best team that we’ve played this year, and they’re going to be the best team that we play, so it was important for us to recognize that we’re also a good team and we can compete with the best.”
The first six outs of the opener all came on strikeouts, and Concordia opened up the game’s scoring on catcher Emily Craig’s solo home run to lead off the third inning. However, with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the third, junior rightfielder Brandi Andrews drilled an 0-2 pitch into the gap in left-center field for a bases-clearing, three-run double that gave Azusa Pacific a 3-1 lead after three innings.
Concordia took advantage of two walks and a pair of Cougar errors in the top of the fourth, combining them with three hits that resulted in five runs, all unearned, to help the Eagles take the lead for good. Amanda Fama, who entered the game batting .505 on the year, capped the rally with an RBI double, her 33rd extra-base hit of the season, to push the lead to 6-3. The Eagles added single runs in the sixth and seventh innings to extend the lead to the final 8-3 margin, with Bryana Simpson’s seventh-inning solo home run wrapping up the game’s scoring.
In the second game, Concordia again jumped out to an early lead, thanks in part to more Cougar miscues in the field. In the first, Chanele Dresser reached on an error before Fama drilled her NAIA-leading 23rd home run of the season, a two-run opposite-field shot with one out in the first inning that gave the Eagles an early 2-0 lead. An inning later, leadoff hitter Katie Carson lined a two-out triple to straightaway center, just underneath the glove of diving centerfielder Brittni Moreno. That scored two more runs, pushing the Concordia advantage to 4-0 after just two innings.
Azusa Pacific rallied again with another big third inning, which started with back-to-back singles from senior shortstop Natalie Barnaby and junior second baseman Angie Sprague. After a groundout advanced them each one base, senior third baseman Olivia Wilcox smacked a 2-2 offering from Concordia starter Jennifer Simons over the left-center field fence for a three-run home run. It was her team-high seventh home run of the year, and senior first baseman Erika Marmolejo made it back-to-back homers after she lined a 1-0 pitch down the left-field line to tie the game at 4-4.
Concordia regained the lead in the fifth inning, when Ashlee Leon led off with a triple and scored from third when Rachel Miller made a diving grab in foul territory down the left-field line for the first out of the inning. The Eagles added three more in the sixth, scoring first on a bases-loaded walk, which was followed by Leon’s bases-loaded single and a bases-loaded hit-batter that extended Concordia’s lead to 8-4.
Azusa Pacific had runners on base in all seven innings of the second game, including consecutive walks to lead off the bottom of the seventh, but Concordia relief pitcher Brittani McGue worked her way out of trouble to keep the Cougars off the scoreboard and finish with the 8-4 win.
“What we need to realize is that when we score runs in one inning, we can’t be satisfied with it because Concordia is a very good hitting team,” Webber said. “(Scoring) four runs is probably not going to win a ballgame against Concordia. We have to be tenacious in our at-bats and realize we need to score runs through all seven innings.”
Wilcox, Marmolejo, Andrews, and Barnaby all hit safely in both games of the doubleheader, with Andrews going three-for-seven on the day and sharing the team-high in RBIs with Wilcox with three runs driven in apiece. Junior pitcher Mariah Worley came on in relief in both games, finishing the afternoon with three strikeouts 2.2 shutout innings of work. Azusa Pacific’s second-game starter Taryn Devich had her personal streak of 29 consecutive scoreless innings snapped by Fama’s two-run home run in the first inning.
Fama was one of three Concordia hitters to finish with three hits, as she went three-for-six with three RBIs to pace the Eagle offense. Carson batted three-for-seven on the day with four RBIs, and Leon finished three-for-six while scoring a team-high three runs. Katie Cotta improved to 13-0 with a 10-strikeout complete-game performance in the opener, and McGue picked up the win for Concordia in the second game with five strikeouts in four shutout innings of relief.
The Cougars return to action on Monday, visiting Hope International to make up the rained-out doubleheader which was originally scheduled to open up Azusa Pacific’s conference schedule back on March 17. They’ll return home the next day for the regularly-scheduled doubleheader at home against Biola at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, March 27.