RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- The Azusa Pacific script has gotten quite predictable the past two weeks, but it continues to keep the Cougars within striking distance of nationally-ranked Pacific West Conference rivals. After suffering a 14-6 mercy-rule defeat to No. 3-ranked California Baptist in the opening game of Tuesday night’s Pacific West Conference doubleheader, Azusa Pacific picked up its fourth straight doubleheader split against a nationally-ranked conference foe by rallying for a 4-3 extra-inning Game 2 win over the Lancers.
The second-game victory secured a doubleheader and season series split with California Baptist for Azusa Pacific, following another season series split with No. 22 Dixie State the day before.
Sophomore catcher Madison Hernandez provided the extra-inning heroics with her two-out solo home run to left-center in the top of the eighth inning, just two innings after junior leftfielder Sona Babayan drove in two runs with a two-out double and later scored on a wild pitch to erase a 1-0 deficit.
After Babayan had given the Cougars a 3-1 lead, California Baptist responded by tying the game with a two-run inning which took all three Azusa Pacific pitchers to escape without surrendering the lead. A solo home run from London Miller led off the inning by cutting the margin to 3-2, and a one-out error brought the first pitching change of the inning. After Destinee Levesque issued back-to-back walks to load the bases, sophomore righthander Narissa Garcia walked in the tying run before inducing a popup and a groundout back to the circle to keep the game tied at 3-3.
Both teams got runners on base in the seventh but did not score, setting up the game-winning home run for Hernandez in extra innings. Garcia retired the side in order on 10 pitches in the bottom of the eighth to finish off the win.
Hernandez also homered in the first game, a three-run fifth-inning shot, and sophomore centerfielder Renae Chappelle and freshman third baseman Nicki Sprague added solo home runs that opened the Cougars’ scoring in the opener. Chappelle led off the third inning with a solo blast, which was answered by four CBU runs in the third. Sprague cut the lead to 4-2 when she ripped another leadoff home run to start the fourth, but the Lancers again pushed four runs across to take an 8-2 lead.
In the fifth, Chappelle was hit by pitch to lead off the frame, and an error, fielder’s choice, sacrifice fly, and walk led to Hernandez driving a 1-0 pitch from Belinda Renne over the fence in left-center to cut the lead to 8-6. After the Lancers added an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth to make it 9-6, Azusa Pacific gave up two runs on a two-error play with no outs in the sixth. Five of the next six CBU hitters reached safely to plate another three runs and end the game on the mercy-rule with a 14-6 lead.
Hernandez and Chappelle were the only two Azusa Pacific hitters to collect hits in both games of the doubleheader, and Garcia was credited with decisions in both games to go to 5-3 on the season.
With the split, Azusa Pacific is now 16-7 overall and 7-5 in PacWest play, while California Baptist is now 18-5 overall and 9-3 in the PacWest as the Lancers head into a four-game weekend series at Dixie State. The Cougars are back in action on Thursday, March 6, returning home to face Lake Superior State in a non-conference matchup.