IRVINE, Calif. -- The NAIA’s top-ranked Concordia gained a measure of revenge against No. 8-ranked Azusa Pacific Friday, avenging the loss that ended the Eagles’ regular season with a 1-0 winner’s-bracket victory over the Cougars in double-elimination unaffiliated conference tournament in Irvine.
It was the fifth meeting of the season between the Golden State Athletic Conference rivals, and it was the first matchup since Azusa Pacific spoiled Concordia’s perfect GSAC record by snapping the Eagles’ 44-game winning streak. The two will meet again in less than 24 hours if Azusa Pacific can get past unranked California Pacific Conference runner-up William Jessup in a Saturday morning elimination game.
Junior pitchers Mariah Worley and Taryn Devich combined to allow just one unearned run on two Concordia hits, but the Cougar offense stranded four baserunners in scoring position as Eagle pitchers Courtney Young and Jennifer Simons combined for a four-hit shutout.
Both teams threatened in the early innings, starting with a Simons leadoff double in the second inning. Pinch-runner Brieana Eckel moved to third on a sacrifice bunt, but Worley got Bryana Simpson to pop out to shortstop before Eckel was caught stealing home on a double-steal attempt with Emily Craig.
In the top of the third, it was the Cougars’ turn to threaten, as senior designated player Leslie Anne-Picone was hit by pitch to lead off the inning and senior shortstop Natalie Barnaby followed with a bunt single. After a strikeout and wild pitch, Azusa Pacific had runners at second and third with one out, but Young induced a groundout that failed to advance the runners and kept the game scoreless when Olivia Wilcox flied out to right to end the inning.
Concordia loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, but Devich struck out Alyssa Erickson for the second out before a two-out error allowed the game’s only run to score.
Freshman second baseman Katrina Oviedo led off the seventh with an infield single, and pinch-runner Rachel Miller moved into scoring position with one out after Jac Harkey’s sacrifice bunt. However, Simons didn’t allow Miller any farther around the bases, finishing off the Cougars by inducing a popout and groundout to shortstop to finish off the 1-0 win.
Young remained perfect on the season, picking up the win to improve to 11-0 while Simons notched her second save of the year. Devich, who struck out five in her four innings of relief, was charged with the loss despite surrendering just one walk and one hit.
Oviedo went two-for-two, accounting for half of the Cougars’ four hits on the day, and Simons collected both of Concordia’s base hits.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific drops to 39-9 overall, while Concordia improves to 53-3 on the year heading into tomorrow’s conference tournament championship.