AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific tied the program's single-game scoring record with 21 runs in the opening game of a 21-0, 6-3 sweep over Chaminade Thursday to complete a four-game Pacific West Conference series sweep.
Freshman third baseman Nicki Sprague led the way with three hits in both games of the doubleheader, raising her season batting average to .550 by going six-for-seven on the day, which included a three-for-four, three-run, two-RBI effort in the record-setting opener. As a team, the Cougars sent 63 hitters to the plate in the doubleheader without striking out once.
“Nobody in our dugout knew any records were being broken, and we didn’t find out until after the game,” head coach Carrie Webber said. “A performance like this is indicative of what this team is capable of doing on any given night.”
While Sprague and the offense stole the show, sophomore righthander Narissa Garcia quietly tossed three no-hit innings before surrendering Chaminade’s first hit in the fourth inning, and she ended up firing a complete-game two-hit shutout with eight strikeouts.
Junior centerfielder Renae Chappelle capped a six-run first inning in the opener with a two-out, two-run home run, her third homer of the season, and Azusa Pacific turned an 11-0 lead after three innings into the record performance by sending 14 hitters to the plate in a 10-run fourth inning. Sophomore catcher Madison Hernandez doubled twice in the inning, leading off the frame with a hit down the left field line before hitting a bases-loaded double to the left field fence her second time to the plate that inning.
Nine of the Cougars’ 10 runs in the fourth inning were unearned, as a pair of Chaminade errors would have given the Silverswords an opportunity to close out the inning after giving up just one run. Instead, a bases-loaded fielder’s choice groundout ended up being the first out of the inning before the next six hitters all reached safely and drove in runs. The flurry included back-to-back two-run doubles from Hernandez and sophomore leftfielder Janelle Eccles. Eccles ended up scoring the record-tying 21st run, the 10th of the inning, when Destinee Levesque dropped a pinch-hit single into shallow right field in her first plate appearance of the season.
In the nightcap, Chaminade quickly snapped out of its scoring drought, which had spanned two consecutive five-inning games against the Cougars. A one-out walk was followed by consecutive one-out singles to load the bases for a Jenn Betian sacrifice fly that gave the Silverswords an early 1-0 lead. However, the Cougars quickly regained the lead with a pair of unearned runs on Eccles’ two-out, two-run single to left-center in the bottom of the first.
“We talked about taking care of one game at a time by keeping our intensity and mental focus, and that’s exactly what our team did,” Webber said. “It was nice to see the team come out and take care of business and win all four games of this series.”
Eccles helped extend the lead to 3-1 in the third inning with an RBI groundout, and Sprague’s two-out, two-run double in the fourth inning extended the lead to 5-1. Hernandez followed with a two-out RBI single that made it 6-1 before Chaminade got two runs back on four consecutive hits to start the top of the fifth inning. With the lead trimmed to 6-3 and the Silverswords threatening, the Cougars summoned freshman lefthander Carly Xepoleas from the bullpen, and she retired all nine batters she faced for a three-inning save. Levesque finished with six strikeouts in her four innings, improving to 8-4 on the year.
With the doubleheader and four-game series sweep over Chaminade, the Cougars solidified their grip on third place in the PacWest standings by improving to 14-8 in conference play and 26-11 overall. Azusa Pacific is now two games ahead of fourth-place Hawai‘i Pacific and sits two games behind second-place Dixie State. Chaminade drops to 7-17 overall and 6-14 in the PacWest.
“This team has a quick learning curve, and they’re a very smart softball team that makes adjustments very well,” Webber said. “That’s the difference between struggling through a game and winning two games in a day or all four games of a series. This is already a good team, and I think they’re only going to continue to improve and make an impact in this conference.”
The Cougars return to action Saturday, March 29, hosting Hawai‘i Hilo for a noon doubleheader. Saturday’s action also includes the first annual Cougar Softball Alumni BBQ event.