AZUSA, Calif. -- Senior pitcher Rita Kim’s complete-game two-hit shutout salvaged a doubleheader split for Azusa Pacific Saturday afternoon against Notre Dame de Namur, giving the Cougars a 2-0 win after dropping the opening game of the doubleheader by the same score. The victory was Azusa Pacific’s first-ever Pacific West Conference victory after three straight defeats in its opening weekend of conference play.
Kim took her no-hit bid into the sixth inning, retiring 14 of 16 batters after issuing a leadoff walk to start the game. Hillary Uekawa broke up the no-no, depositing a single into shallow left field to lead off the sixth inning. A two-out walk and an infield single to shortstop loaded the bases for the Argonauts, who trailed 2-0 at the time, but Kim struck out Amanda Wallach for one of her seven strikeouts to leave the bases loaded. In the seventh, a pair of Cougar errors kept NDNU alive, but Kim struck out pinch-hitter Hillary Ruddick to wrap up the two-hit shutout.
“I think this is the best start to a season Rita has had in her career,” Cougar head coach Carrie Webber said. “In the past she’s tended to come out slow and end well, but this year she’s come out very strong. She’s done a good job getting ahead of batters and going at batters more than she has in the past.”
Senior shortstop Rachel Miller provided an early offensive spark in the second game for the Cougars, who were held to just four hits in the 2-0 defeat in the opener. Miller slashed a bases-loaded, two-out single through the right side to score sophomore second baseman Katrina Oviedo for an early 1-0 lead. In the fifth, Miller drew a two-out walk to load the bases for Kim, who laced a single into center field for another two-out RBI that made it a two-run game.
“Run production with two outs is huge, and we did a good job of that today to get the win,” Webber said. “We work really hard to practice those situations, and so far we haven’t executed them well. Those were big hits.”
All five Azusa Pacific hits came during its scoring innings, although Cougar hitters also drew four walks and also reached on a pair of Argonaut errors. Miller, Oviedo, Kim, and senior Brandi Andrews all recorded hits in both games, and senior leftfielder Heather Koch added the fifth hit of the nightcap with her one-out double to left in the bottom of the fifth that put Andrews at third base for Kim’s RBI single later in the frame.
In the opener, the Cougars managed only five baserunners all game, with the aforementioned quartet registering the four hits along with one walk. Notre Dame de Namur scored single runs in the second and fifth innings, but Azusa Pacific put runners at third base in fifth- and sixth-inning rallies.
In the fifth, Kim hit a one-out single and moved around to third on a groundout and stolen base, and the sixth inning featured consecutive one-out singles from Oviedo and Andrews. After Andrews stole second to give the Cougars runners at second and third with one out, Oviedo was thrown out at home on a fielder’s choice grounder to shortstop, and Argonaut pitcher Sammy McConvey got out of trouble with an inning-ending flyout.
Notre Dame de Namur scored its first run of the game on a fielder’s choice groundout with the bases loaded, and Ruddick drew a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the fifth to account for all of the game’s scoring.
Freshman pitcher Narissa Garcia struck out six in 4.2 innings of work, although Argonaut hitters drew six walks and registered five hits. Senior Mariah Worley threw 2.1 scoreless innings of relief, striking out two to keep the Cougars within two.
“All three of our pitchers threw very well today, and I thought they threw well enough for us to win both games,” Webber said. “I was really happy with their performance on the mound, we just have to do a better job taking care of the ball and making better contact.”
With the split, Azusa Pacific picks up its first PacWest win while handing Notre Dame de Namur its first conference defeat. The Cougars are now 6-6 overall and 1-3 in the PacWest. Notre Dame de Namur, which swept California Baptist Friday, falls to 8-3 overall and 3-1 PacWest.
“This is a slow start for us – I’m hoping that’s all it is and we’ll start to pick it up,” Webber said. “The more games we can play consecutively, the more of a groove and flow we can get into and start to play better softball.”
The Cougars return to non-conference action next week, visiting Biola Tuesday afternoon to make up last week’s rained-out doubleheader before hosting Vanguard on Saturday, March 2, at noon.