AZUSA, Calif. -- If Friday’s home-opening doubleheader sweep over La Sierra is any indication, it won’t take long for Azusa Pacific freshmen Abry Moreno and Nicki Sprague to grow to love playing games at their home field for the next four years.
The duo combined for 10 hits in a 4-3, 10-3 sweep over the Golden Eagles in the Cougars’ 2014 home opener. Moreno led the way with six hits, going three-for-three with a double in the opener and three-for-four with two runs and a stolen base in the nightcap.
Sprague, meanwhile, continued her torrid start to her collegiate career, slamming her first career home run in the opener as she went two-for-two in both games of the twinbill. In doing so, she raised her season batting average to .704 (19-for-27) while hitting safely in all nine games of the young season so far, with six multi-hit games to her credit.
On the day, Azusa Pacific registered 24 hits, with the performance from Moreno and Sprague accompanied by four others who hit safely in both games. Sophomore Madison Hernandez hit a bases-clearing double in the second game and finished with four RBIs on the day, and she collected two of the Cougars’ nine stolen bases.
In the opener, sophomore pitcher Narissa Garcia rolled through five shutout innings and Sprague’s third-inning solo home run to right-center helped the Cougars take a three-run lead into the sixth inning before La Sierra rallied to tie the game after loading the bases with no outs in the sixth. Mercedes Gasparovic hit a one-out, two-run double, and Monique Villasenor’s sacrifice fly to right tied the game at 3-3.
It took just three batters for the Cougars to answer in the bottom of the inning, when Moreno doubled to drive in the game-winning run with one out. After leaving the bases loaded with just the single run to show for it, junior pitcher Destinee Levesque struck out a pair of Golden Eagles as she retired the side in order in the seventh to preserve the win.
In the nightcap, La Sierra scored all three of its runs in the first two innings, but a Sprague double helped Azusa Pacific get one run back in the first inning before exploding for six runs in the second. The Cougars sent 12 batters to the plate in the inning, and the six hits in the frame included a one-out run-scoring single from Moreno and a two-out RBI double from Sprague. In the fifth inning, Hernandez pushed three more runs across with a bases-loaded, one-out double to right center that rounded out the scoring.
Freshman Carly Xepoleas fired six innings of one-hit shutout relief, striking out four along the way to pick up her third victory of the season.
With the sweep, Azusa Pacific has won five straight and is now 7-2 on the season, while La Sierra falls to 2-10. The Cougars continue a busy weekend with a non-conference doubleheader against Biola on Saturday, followed by PacWest doubleheaders against Hawai‘i Pacific to kick off conference play on Monday and Tuesday next week.