AZUSA, Calif. -- Rita Kim notched her third career no-hitter with a near-perfect performance Monday to open Azusa Pacific’s 10-0, 4-0 sweep over Dominican in a Pacific West Conference softball doubleheader.
Kim struck out eight and allowed just one baserunner on a fifth-inning leadoff walk to Dominique Perry, barely missing inside on a 3-1 pitch. She promptly doubled Perry off first base when the very next batter bunted into a line-drive double play back to Kim. She struck out eight and also benefited from a defense which made a pair of spectacular plays to keep the no-hitter alive.
“I don’t think about that (throwing a no-hitter) during the game because I try to stay focused on each batter,” Kim said. “I wasn’t aware of it at all until one of my teammates told me in the sixth. Also, one of my good friends on the team was completely avoiding me, so I knew something was up. I just try not to think about things like that, because I don’t want it to distract me.”
Senior shortstop Rachel Miller dove for a sinking line drive through the left side for the third out of the second inning, and Miller came up with a leadoff grounder in the sixth that had glanced off the glove of third baseman Sona Babayan and delivered a strong throw across the diamond to keep the no-hit bid alive.
“When a pitcher wholeheartedly trusts every player on the field, it makes her job a lot easier,” Kim said. “As soon as the ball was hit, I had no doubt it would be played.”
Kim took care of the rest, striking out the final two batters she faced to close out the sixth before Azusa Pacific put the game away with a towering three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth from freshman Madison Hernandez that turned a 7-0 lead into a 10-0 mercy-rule victory.
“Rita had an amazing performance today,” Cougar head coach Carrie Webber said. “It was really fun to watch her throw, it was nice to see the defense perform so well behind her, and the offense gave her the run support so she could be successful. It was one of the more enjoyable games this season, and she’s throwing so well right now that it’s just really fun to sit back and watch her.”
Four players registered two-hit games in the opener, and the Cougars registered a season-high nine steals to go with their 11-hit attack. Six of those steals came in a two-run first inning, as Azusa Pacific capitalized on a Dominican error to plate a pair of unearned runs and take an early 2-0 lead. Miller scored on a double steal in the fourth inning to push the lead to 3-0, and a five-hit fifth inning led to three more runs and a 6-0 lead heading into the sixth.
Sophomore second baseman Katrina Oviedo hit a leadoff double in the sixth, scoring on Heather Koch’s single to center. Senior rightfielder Brandi Andrews followed with another single before Hernandez drilled a 1-0 pitch to deep left for the three-run home run that ended the game.
“Of course I wanted to go out and pitch the seventh inning, but we mercied a team and that’s the best my team can do,” said Kim.
In the second game, the other three Azusa Pacific pitchers combined for a seven-inning shutout while the Cougars built another early lead with a two-run first inning. Senior centerfielder Angie Sprague hit a leadoff single and stole second and third before scoring on Koch’s sacrifice fly to left. Andrews registered another base hit and scored on a dropped fly ball in left-center that would have resulted in the third out of the inning.
Senior Taryn Devich threw the first three innings, striking out four while scattering three hits. Freshman Narissa Garcia added two shutout frames, stranding two Dominican baserunners in the fourth inning and leaving the bases loaded in the fifth. Senior Mariah Worley finished things off with two more innings of shutout ball, allowing just two infield hits while striking out one, and she snagged a hard line drive up the middle to end the game.
After the two-run first inning, Azusa Pacific added single runs in the fourth and fifth innings. In the fourth, the Cougars scored despite the ball never leaving the infield. Jac Harkey led off with an infield single, and Erica Taft and Oviedo each registered bunt singles which eventually pushed pinch-runner Brittni Moreno all the way around the bases for a 3-0 lead. Harkey’s sacrifice fly in the fifth took advantage of another dropped fly ball that allowed Hernandez to reach base to lead off the inning.
“We didn’t quite have the same run production in the second game, but we still had the threat on base and continued to put pressure on the other team, which is nice to see,” Webber said. “I never felt like the game was out of control, because our team was playing well and the pitchers were throwing very well. It was really nice to see two games together where we played really solid from the first inning to the last inning.”
Oviedo’s single extended her hitting streak to 13 games, while Andrews registered a pair of two-hit games to lead the Cougar offense, which collected 19 hits on the day.
“The pressure’s on – we’re a very experienced team that should have our act together by now,” Andrews said. “There’s been a lot of pressure, so this game was a relief. It felt good to be able to help my team out with some base hits, and they picked me up.”
With the sweep, Azusa Pacific improves to 14-8 overall and 6-4 in PacWest play, while Dominican has lost 11 straight to fall to 4-16 overall and 0-8 in conference play. The Cougars are not currently scheduled to play again until traveling to Hawai‘i for a 10-game PacWest road trip to take on the league’s four island-based schools which begins with a four-game set on the Big Island at University of Hawai‘i Hilo.