IRVINE, Calif. -- The NAIA’s top-ranked Concordia wrecked the perfect record of Azusa Pacific junior pitcher Mariah Worley with a 4-0 win in the opening game of Tuesday’s Golden State Athletic Conference doubleheader, so the No. 8-ranked Cougars responded by snapping the Eagles’ NAIA-leading 44-game winning streak in the nightcap.
Junior pitcher Rita Kim fired the four-hit complete-game shutout in the 2-0 victory in the second game, ending Concordia’s regular season with its only GSAC defeat and just its third loss of the season. The Eagles’ only other defeats this season came by a single run on consecutive days at the Simpson Invitational in Redding Feb. 10-11.
“Concordia is definitely one of the toughest teams that we’ve played,” Cougar head coach Carrie Webber said. “They’re a really great team this year, and I give them a lot of credit for the season they’ve had, but to compete with them every time we played and make it a hard-fought game says a lot about our team. We’re also a high-caliber team in the NAIA, and we hope that we will be able to represent the GSAC and our school well in the postseason. Our team has worked very hard for that, and I’m really looking forward to what we can do in the postseason.”
The Cougars generated both runs in the second game with two outs in the fourth inning. Senior third baseman Olivia Wilcox hit a two-out single to right and advanced to second on a wild pitch, and senior first baseman>Erika Marmolejo followed with a run-scoring double to right. Marmolejo’s pinch-runner scored on Brandi Andrews’ single into right-center, which gave Azusa Pacific a 2-0 lead.
Kim took care of the rest, retiring 11 straight batters to finish with the complete-game shutout victory. She struck out four and walked only one in her seven innings of shutout ball, although she got some help in the field shortly after the Cougars had taken a 2-0 lead. In the bottom of the fourth, Jenna Jorgenson hit a leadoff single and moved to second on a wild pitch after a lineout, and when junior centerfielder Angie Sprague robbed a potential home run from Bryana Simpson at the center field fence. Jorgenson tagged up and would have scored on the deep homer, but Azusa Pacific won the appeal that Jorgenson had left too early, giving the Cougars their third out while keeping the shutout also intact.
The shutout bid also needed an outfield assist from Andrews to stay alive, as the junior rightfielder threw out Concordia catcher Emily Craig at the plate in the second inning when Craig tried to score on a fly out to right field.
In the opener, Concordia ace Katie Cotta wrapped up a perfect regular season with a four-hit shutout, as Katie Cotta improved to 17-0 on the year. Worley also turned in a strong start against one of the GSAC and NAIA’s best offenses, but the earned run she gave up in the third inning turned into three runs on a two-out error. Concordia added one more in the sixth on a one-out squeeze bunt.
“After the opening game loss, we just reminded the team that there was another game to play and we need to stay in the moment, stay in every play, every pitch, and stay into it throughout the second game,” Webber said. “We weren’t being out-hit, but we needed to rise to the occasion. I was really happy to come away with a split, because that’s a very tough team to play.”
Sprague and Andrews were the only Azusa Pacific players to hit safely in both games of the twinbill, and Sprague was two-four-four in the opener. Kim struck out four, issued one walk and surrendered four hits as she improved her record to 12-4 this season.
With the split, Azusa Pacific is now 36-8 overall and is 10-4 in Golden State Athletic Conference play. Concordia is now done with its regular season, finishing with an overall record of 51-3 and 15-1 in conference play. Azusa Pacific wraps up the regular season Saturday with a visit to Biola, while Concordia now begins preparations to host the upcoming conference tournament May 3-5.