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Strong To The Finish

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Photo by Joe Reinsch
Jac Harkey hit her second home run of the season, a two-run shot in the second game that helped Azusa Pacific complete a season sweep of Biola.

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April 21, 2012
Joe Reinsch
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LA MIRADA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific wrapped up the regular season with a doubleheader sweep at Biola, finishing off an impressive week on the road that included an upset of the NAIA’s top-ranked Concordia to give the No. 8-ranked Cougars a three-game winning streak heading into the postseason.

After winning the opener Saturday, 8-5, junior righthander Rita Kim stepped into the circle and tossed five innings of one-hit ball in a 9-1 win that lasted six innings. The only hit off Kim came just two batters into the game, and Kim retired 14 of the final 16 batters she faced after the hit.

With the sweep, Azusa Pacific wraps up the regular season with a 38-8 overall record. The Cougars will move on to participate in a six-team NAIA automatic-qualifying tournament involving teams from the Golden State Athletic and California Pacific Conferences. Concordia will host the tournament, which takes place May 3-5, and the winner of the tournament claims an automatic bid into the NAIA Softball National Championship.

Senior third baseman Olivia Wilcox was one of several offensive stars for the Cougars Saturday afternoon, batting five-for-seven with four runs and four RBIs. She was one of three Cougars with at least two hits in both games of the twinbill, and senior first baseman Erika Marmolejo walked three times (twice intentionally) in game two after she smashed a two-run home run, her sixth of the season, and went two-for-three with three RBIs in the opener.

Marmolejo’s blast gave the Cougars a 4-1 lead in the third inning of the opener, and after Biola answered with a pair in the bottom of the inning, Marmolejo knocked in another run in a two-run fourth that pushed the lead to 6-3. Wilcox extended the lead to 7-3 with a sixth-inning sacrifice fly before Biola scored a pair on consecutive two-out errors that cut the lead to 7-5 heading into the final inning. Junior pitcher Taryn Devich came on in relief of starting pitcher Mariah Worley, retiring all three Eagle hitters in the seventh to pick up the save and preserve an 8-5 opening-game win.

Wilcox got a two-out rally going in the top of the first with a single through the left side, and she scored the first run on junior rightfielder Brandi Andrews’ opposite-field single. Biola got its first two runners on in the bottom of the first, starting with an error that was followed by the Eagles’ only hit off Kim. With runners at first and third, Wilcox fielded a bunt and flipped the ball to the plate in one motion to cut down the lead runner for the first out. Kim struck out the next hitter, and junior catcher Jac Harkey threw out Brooke Madrid on an attempted steal of third base to help Azusa Pacific get out of the first inning with its 1-0 lead intact.

Biola didn’t get another baserunner to second base off Kim, who struck out seven and walked only one as she improved to 13-4 on the year. The Cougars padded their lead with a three-run third and followed it up with another run in the fifth, and Harkey hit a two-run homer, her second of the year, with two outs in the sixth to help extend the lead to 9-0. With Devich pitching in the bottom of the sixth, CeCe Luster hit a double to center that resulted in Biola’s only score of the game.