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Cougars Drop Two At Tournament Of Champions

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Photo by Joe Reinsch
Madison Hernandez homered twice in Azusa Pacific's 7-6 loss to Western Washington as the Cougars dropped two game Friday in Turlock.

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April 4, 2014
Joe Reinsch
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TURLOCK, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific lost its first two games at the Tournament of Champions presented by the Turlock Convention & Visitors Bureau Friday morning, falling to Central Washington, 3-0, before surrendering a late lead in a 7-6 defeat to Western Washington.

Junior second baseman Katrina Oviedo extended her hitting streak to a season-high 12 games, and sophomore catcher Madison Hernandez hit a pair of home runs in the second game as the Cougars out-hit their opponent in both games.

In the opener, sophomore pitcher Narissa Garcia started with three no-hit innings before giving up a single run in the fourth and two in the sixth in a fast-paced pitcher’s duel. However, Central Washington ace Kiana Wood fired a four-hit, four-strikeout performance to keep Azusa Pacific off the scoreboard. After a first-inning hit, Wood retired nine straight batters before she escaped trouble in the late innings to emerge with the shutout victory.

Freshman third baseman Nicki Sprague narrowly missed a home run in the top of the fourth, hitting a line drive into the right-center field gap that hit the top of the outfield fence. Instead of a home run and a 1-0 lead, Sprague had to settle for a one-out double, and Wood retired the next two batters to keep the game scoreless.

Junior shortstop Desiree Chavez led off the sixth inning with an infield hit, advanced to second on a sacrifice and third on a groundout, but the Wildcats pitched around Sprague, issuing a four-pitch walk to put runners on first and third before Hernandez flied out down the left-field line.

Central Washington added to its lead in the sixth-inning with Maikala Galusha’s two-run home run, making it a 3-0 lead heading into Azusa Pacific’s final turn at-bat in the seventh inning. The Cougars got a runner on base due to a one-out error, but Wood got a fly out and an infield popup to end the game.

In the second game, Hernandez homered twice, leading off the bottom of the second inning with a high fly ball to right-center and adding a one-out solo home run to left field in the fifth to break up a 4-4 tie. In both cases, the Western Washington outfielder was able to get a glove on the ball at the fence, but both times the ball bounced out as both the ball and fielder went over the fence for home runs.

Western Washington scored twice but left the bases loaded in the first inning, and freshman rightfielder Abry Moreno highlighted a three-run fourth with a two-out, two-run double that gave the Cougars a 4-2 lead. Western Washington tied it at 4-4 in the top of the fifth with a pair of unearned runs before Hernandez put Azusa Pacific in front with her second home run of the game.

In the sixth, Western Washington loaded the bases with no outs, but the Cougars got the first out of the inning on a force play at home before freshman lefthander Carly Xepoleas issued a one-out, bases-loaded walk to tie the game at 5-5. She struck out the next batter, giving her a chance to get out of the inning with a tie game, but Kaleigh Keating dropped a two-run single into center for the go-ahead runs.

Only three of the seven runs scored by WWU were charged as earned, and Xepoleas finished the game with a season-high eight strikeouts. The Cougars tallied 11 hits to Western Washington’s eight after out-hitting Central Washington in the opener, as well (4-3). Sprague, Hernandez, and junior leftfielder Sona Babayan each had two hits in the second game, and Oviedo and Sprague were the only two Cougars who hit safely in both games.

Friday’s losses dropped Azusa Pacific to 27-14 overall, and the Cougars continue Tournament of Champions play on Saturday with three games against programs from the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.