LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Azusa Pacific had the tying run in scoring position in its final at-bat of both games Friday on the opening day of the Desert Stinger Tournament, but the Cougars weren’t able to bring them home in a 4-3 loss to Minot State (N.D.) and a 6-4 defeat to tournament host Montana State Billings.
In the opener, Minot State broke up a scoreless game with two outs in the top of the third on Jen Dixon’s three-run home run to center field. However, sophomore first baseman Jessica Melcher brought in a pair of two-out runs with solid contact up the middle, and her leadoff home run in the bottom of the seventh brought Azusa Pacific within a run at 4-3. It was Melcher’s first college home run, and it was also the first home run of the young season for any Cougar hitter.
Sophomore designated player Janelle Eccles singled to center, and a sacrifice bunt put the tying run at second base with just one out. However, freshman rightfielder Abry Moreno lined out to left, and junior shortstop Desiree Chavez lined out to short to end the game.
In the game against Montana State Billings, which started over an hour later than scheduled as the previous game ran long, Azusa Pacific strung together 18 hits. However, the Cougars left the bases loaded three times and ended three other frames with two runners aboard, leaving 15 runners on base during the game.
Melcher opened up the scoring again, driving in the first run of the game with a one-out single down the left-field line in the top of the second, and the Cougars loaded the bases with two outs on Moreno’s first of four hits in the game. A groundout left the bases loaded, but Azusa Pacific answered MSU Billings’ two-run second with a three-run outburst in the top of the third inning. Freshman third baseman Nicki Sprague, Melcher and Eccles each delivered RBI singles, and another pair of singles loaded the bases again with two outs. However, the Cougars left the bases loaded again and took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the third.
After Montana State Billings scored a single run in the third to pull within 4-3, it took advantage of three Azusa Pacific errors an inning later to score three more and take a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the fourth. Although the Cougars registered two hits per inning over the final three innings, none turned into runs, as two runners were stranded in each of the fifth and sixth innings before loading the bases with two outs against MSU Billings.
Moreno led all hitters from both teams, going four-for-four, while Hernandez and Sprague added three hits each to lead Azusa Pacific. Melcher was two-for-four with another two RBIs.
With the defeats, Azusa Pacific drops to 2-2 overall heading into Saturday’s three games of Desert Stinger tournament action in Las Vegas, Nev.