AZUSA, Calif. -- For the third time in the past week, California Baptist took a softball game into extra innings, and the experience paid off for the Lancers, who won the eight-inning opener, 3-1, before completing a Pacific West Conference doubleheader sweep over Azusa Pacific by edging the Cougars by a run in the nightcap, 2-1.
The victory stretched California Baptist’s season-long winning streak to seven games, including three eight-inning victories, and it’s a stretch during which the Lancers have given up no more than one run in any game. Jessica Avila and Belinda Renne tossed complete games for California Baptist, and Azusa Pacific also received strong pitching performances from all three pitchers used during Friday’s twinbill.
Jessica Avila scattered a single run on nine hits in the opener to improve to 17-9 on the year, and Belinda Renne allowed one run on only five hits in the nightcap. For the Cougars, Rita Kim was one out away from a complete-game shutout when the Lancers tied the game in the top of the seventh to force extra innings, and she finished with six strikeouts while allowing three runs on six hits in her eight innings of work. Taryn Devich limited California Baptist to two runs on five hits in the second game, while Mariah Worley provided two innings of scoreless relief.
The opening game was a pitcher’s duel that went scoreless into the bottom of the sixth inning. With two outs and nobody on base, Azusa Pacific strung together four consecutive two-out hits, with Kim driving in the game’s first score with her bases-loaded single to left-center. However, California Baptist leftfielder Jordan Mowatt fielded it cleanly and came up throwing to cut down a potential insurance run at the plate and end the inning.
The Lancers then opened up the seventh with a leadoff triple to straightaway center off the bat of Savannah Miller. Kim, who had escaped a fifth-inning jam in which she put runners at second and third with no outs with a pair of strikeouts earlier in the game, again came up with a strikeout for the first out of the frame. However, April Vasquez was able to lift a fly ball to deep left-center, scoring Miller from third to tie the game at 1-1 and send the game to extra innings after the Cougars were unable to convert Jessica Melcher’s leadoff single into a run in the bottom of the seventh.
With two outs and nobody on base In the top of the eighth, Marshean August placed a bunt down in front of the plate for a two-out single, and Rachel Meyer drilled an 0-1 pitch into left-center for an RBI double to give California Baptist a 2-1 lead. Sloan McHann followed that with an RBI single up the middle, giving the Lancers a 3-1 edge. Brandi Andrews collected a two-out single in the bottom of the eighth, but Avila finished off the complete-game win with the last of her four strikeouts in the game.
California Baptist opened up the second game with another two-out rally, with McHann taking advantage of the two-out walk drawn by Rachel Meyer to knock an RBI triple into right-center for an early 1-0 Lancers lead. Azusa Pacific answered with its own two-out RBI knock, as Madison Hernandez brought in Rachel Miller from third base after Miller had drawn a leadoff walk to open the frame.
The score remained tied until the fifth inning, when Marshean August stole second base with two outs and went on to score on a McHann single. That turned out to be the game-winner, although the Cougars threatened in both the sixth and seventh innings with runners in scoring position with less than two outs in both innings.
In the bottom of the sixth, Angie Sprague hit a leadoff double and moved to third with one out following an error on a fielder’s choice play. Renne recorded the second out of the inning by strikeout before halting the sixth-inning rally with a fly ball out. An inning later, still trailing by a run at 2-1, Azusa Pacific enjoyed another good start to the frame with Kim’s leadoff single. An error on Heather Koch’s sacrifice bunt allowed the Cougars to have runners at first and second with no outs in the seventh. The ensuing bunt attempt was popped up in the air and caught for the first out, and consecutive fly outs into the outfield preserved the victory for the Lancers.
Following the sweep, Azusa Pacific falls to 20-17 overall and 9-11 in the PacWest, while California Baptist now sits at 26-16 overall while evening up its conference record to 13-13. The teams square off in Riverside for another doubleheader that begins at noon on Saturday, and the Cougars are on the road again for a pair of doubleheaders at Dixie State next week before wrapping up the regular season at home with doubleheaders against Grand Canyon on Friday and Saturday, April 26-27.