AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific made the most of its five hits Saturday, converting its offense into early leads for the pitching staff to protect in a 3-2, 3-1 doubleheader sweep over previously-unbeaten Biola Saturday afternoon.
The Cougars, who had registered at least seven hits in every game of the season entering Saturday’s matchup, got all five of its hits the first time through the lineup in both games. In the opener, sophomore catcher Madison Hernandez drove in the game’s first run with a two-out double in the first inning, and sophomore first baseman Jessica Melcher added her third home run of the year to lead off the second inning.
“We left a lot of runners on base last weekend, and we knew we needed to do better with it this weekend,” Azusa Pacific head coach Carrie Webber said. “Once we get runners on, then we can start to make some things happen. We had some timely hitting and timely execution, and that’s what allowed us to execute in those vital situations where we only needed a few hits.”
In the fourth inning, Hernandez drew a leadoff walk and later scored on a throwing error to give Azusa Pacific a 3-0 lead. Biola loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the fifth and cashed in a pair of runs on a Celina Thornton single and a fielder’s choice groundout before junior pitcher Destinee Levesque struck out Heather Hall to end the threat.
Freshman lefthander Carly Xepoleas retired the final six Biola hitters in the sixth and seventh to earn the save, and she also tossed three perfect innings of relief for Narissa Garcia in the nightcap for another save.
“We might not be able to have each starter go a full seven innings every game, so we need to utilize the strengths of all three pitchers to keep teams off-balance and put together a full game,” Webber said. “As long as our pitchers are consistent around the strike zone, we can make those changes and be efficient with our pitching staff. They’re getting some innings under their belt, and you can see them starting to be more productive.”
Hall opened up the scoring in the second game with a two-out solo home run in the top of the third, which Azusa Pacific answered with a three-run rally on just one hit in the bottom of the frame. Junior centerfielder Renae Chappelle drew a leadoff walk, which junior shortstop Desiree Chavez followed with an infield single. Chappelle scored when Biola pitcher CeCe Luster threw away a fielder’s choice comebacker for a two-base error, and Chavez scored two batters later on a passed ball that gave the Cougars a 2-1 lead. Hernandez laid down a sacrifice bunt that brought Moreno in to score just beneath the tag at home plate before Eagles relief pitcher Reba DePriest got out of the inning with no further damage.
“We’re starting to understand who we are, how we play together, and what combinations will work for us in different situations,” Webber said. “There’s starting to be a comfort level for us that we didn’t have when we started the season.”
Biola registered a pair of infield singles but did not score against Garcia in the fourth inning, and Xepoleas retired nine Eagles hitters in a row to close out the win.
With the sweep, Azusa Pacific improved to 9-2 on the year, while Biola suffered its first losses of the season to fall to 7-2. The Cougars host Hawai‘i Pacific for a four-game series Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 17-18, to kick off Pacific West Conference play.