HILO, Hawai‘i -- Azusa Pacific got into early trouble Saturday at Hawai‘i Hilo, and it cost the Cougar two more conference defeats as they gave up three first-inning runs to the Vulcans in both games of Saturday’s 6-0, 6-5 doubleheader sweep.
That sealed a four-game sweep for Hawai‘i Hilo, which moved into the Pacific West Conference lead with the series sweep. The Vulcans scored more runs (12) in the first innings of all four games of the set than Azusa Pacific did in the entire series (11), getting to Cougar starters Rita Kim and Mariah Worley early in both games Saturday.
In the opener, Kim issued four walks and wasn’t able to get out of the second inning before she was replaced by Worley, who retired 10 of the first 11 hitters she faced before Vanessa Salinas hit a solo home run to lead off the sixth inning and provide the final 6-0 margin for the Vulcans.
Salinas also handled the pitching duties for Hawai‘i Hilo, tossing a complete-game four-hit shutout. Azusa Pacific registered three hits in the first two innings, but after a fourth-inning infield single to Madison Hernandez, Salinas retired 11 consecutive Azusa Pacific hitters to close out the game.
In the second game, Worley gave up a three-run home run with one out in the top of the first, forcing the Cougars to chase three early runs for the second straight game. The Vulcans added one in the second but left the bases loaded, and Azusa Pacific pulled within a run with a three-run fourth inning.
Hernandez, Heather Koch, and Brandi Andrews opened up the fourth with three consecutive singles, and all three ended up scoring. Jessica Melcher drove in Hernandez from third with an RBI groundout, and Sona Babayan plated two more with a single to right field, although she was thrown out trying to advance to second base to end the inning.
In the bottom of the fourth, a two-run double from Hawai‘i Hilo’s No. 3 hitter Colleen Aubry expanded the lead to 6-3, where it stood until the final frame when the Cougars loaded the bases with no outs. Hernandez hit a sacrifice fly that brought in one to cut the lead to 6-4, and Koch brought in another with a squeeze bunt to bring Andrews to the plate with the potential tying run at third base. Vulcan pitcher Ashley Nelson was able to get Andrews to fly out to right field, preserving her team’s sweep with a 6-5 victory.
Andrews was two-for-four in the second game, leading a 10-hit attack for Azusa Pacific. The first three batters in the Hawai‘i Hilo lineup combined to go eight-for-11 in game two, with No. 3 and 4 hitters Aubry and Emily Greene driving in all six runs for the Vulcans. Narissa Garcia allowed two hits and struck out one in 2.2 innings of scoreless relief for the Cougars.
Azusa Pacific, which is now 14-12 overall and 6-8 in PacWest play, moves on to the island of O‘ahu for three more doubleheaders against PacWest foes Chaminade, BYU-Hawaii, and Hawai‘i Pacific next week. Hawai‘i Hilo is now 23-13 overall and 14-4 in conference play.