AZUSA, Calif. -- Over the last decade, wins against California Baptist in softball have been hard to come by, but Azusa Pacific made it look easy with an eight-run fifth inning that broke a 2-2 tie for a 10-2 mercy-rule win in the second game of Wednesday’s Pacific West Conference softball doubleheader.
The victory gave Azusa Pacific a split with California Baptist, which had moved up to No. 3 in the NCAA Division II national rankings earlier in the day. The Lancers posted a 2-0 win in the opening game of Wednesday’s twinbill, thanks to a two-run first-inning home run. The win was the Cougars’ fifth over California Baptist in 42 games between the rival programs since 2004, and it was the first time Azusa Pacific had beaten a CBU team in a mercy-rule victory since 2001.
“We’re consistently doing the things we need to do to stay in ballgames,” head coach Carrie Webber said. “We’re playing consistent, fundamental defense, our pitchers are consistently keeping us in ballgames, and we’re consistently taking good at-bats. We aren’t always going to get hits or score runs, but we’re consistent with our game plan and making the adjustments early in the game that let us take our opponent out of their game.”
After California Baptist chipped away an early 2-0 Cougar lead with single runs in the third and fourth innings to tie the game at 2-2, Azusa Pacific quickly regained the lead when it loaded the bases for junior leftfielder Sona Babayan’s bases-loaded RBI single through the right side. After the single, CBU relief pitcher Belinda Renne picked up a strikeout before walking in another run on a four-pitch walk to sophomore Janelle Eccles to make it a 4-2 margin.
Junior centerfielder Renae Chappelle knocked in two more with a double over the head of the leftfielder, and junior shortstop Desiree Chavez and freshman rightfielder Abry Moreno added run-scoring singles that scored two more runs to make it 8-2. The rally concluded when junior second baseman Katrina Oviedo laid down a squeeze bunt to score Chavez while a throwing error on the play at first base allowed Moreno to advance two extra bases for the game-clinching run in the 10-2 victory.
With the split, Azusa Pacific is now 14-5 overall and 5-3 in PacWest play, while California Baptist drops to 17-4 overall with an 8-2 conference mark.
In the opener, the only damage inflicted by California Baptist came on one swing of the bat with two outs in the first inning. A two-out walk led to a 2-2 pitch to designated player Rachel Meyer, who lifted a fly ball to right field that cleared the fence for a two-run home runs. Neither team scored again in the first game, although the Cougars loaded the bases twice without scoring and finished with 12 runners left on base in an eight-hit effort against Renne.
“We hit the ball well in the first game, we just hit it right at people, and that happens sometimes in this game,” Webber said. “If you keep hitting that way, eventually those hits will start to fall, so we told the team between games to just keep swinging. I couldn’t be more pleased with the way we played in both games, especially ending the second game the way we did.”
Sophomore Narissa Garcia limited the Lancers to just four more hits over the next six scoreless innings, striking out five in the complete-game effort. Junior Destinee Levesque started the second game, striking out five in three innings before giving way to freshman lefthander Carly Xepoleas for the final two innings of work. Xepoleas, who gave up one run on two hits and struck out one, picked up the win to improve to 6-0.
“I was really proud of Narissa, because she showed a really good mindset coming into this game with how well she pitched,” Webber said. “She executed what we wanted with her today, which was getting ahead of hitters and using her offspeed early. Destinee and Carly are getting stronger and more confident every game, and you can see the growth in their mental focus and toughness through their ability to work out of jams and maintain that confidence in their team behind them.”
Babayan, who was named PacWest Player of the Week for her performance last week batting .526 (10-for-19) through the first six games of conference play, collected three hits in the opener along with another two hits and the game-winning RBI in the nightcap to finish the day with five hits in seven at-bats.
“When we started the second game, we didn’t have the feeling that we had lost the first game,” said Babayan. “California Baptist had one good hit that cost us two runs, but we bounced back great. We felt like we controlled the tempo of that first game, and we knew exactly what we needed to do to continue that into the second game.”
Freshman third baseman Nicki Sprague entered the game batting a team-high .531, and she went four-for-five with two walks on the day which included a three-for-three performance in the second game. In all, five players registered multiple hits in the Cougars’ 10-run, 13-hit Game Two attack.
The teams meet again next Tuesday, March 4, in Riverside, although first the Cougars host No. 22-ranked Dixie State in a 2 p.m. doubleheader on Monday, March 3.