AZUSA, Calif. -- Sophomore pitcher Narissa Garcia tossed a one-hit shutout, and freshman pitcher Carly Xepoleas followed with her own five-hit shutout to lead Azusa Pacific to a 4-0, 6-0 doubleheader sweep over Hope International in a non-conference doubleheader Tuesday afternoon.
Garcia struck out six and retired the first 10 Royals hitters before a one-out single dropped into left-center in the fourth inning, and after that she retired 11 more in a row to finish off the victory. The fourth-inning single was the only baserunner Garcia allowed, and the Cougars picked up the early lead with a single run in the second inning before adding two more in the third and one more in the fifth for the final 4-0 margin.
Xepoleas tallied three strikeouts while scattering five hits, and she and Garcia combined for 14 innings without issuing a walk. Xepoleas retired the first seven batters she faced, although it took Azusa Pacific until the fourth inning to score for the first time with back-to-back three-run frames. The victory gave the freshman southpaw a team-best 12-4 overall record and marked her fourth shutout of the season.
The doubleheader shutout sweep was the first for Azusa Pacific since sweeping a Pacific West Conference doubleheader against Dominican last March, and the Cougars now take a 32-14 overall record into a PacWest matchup with Dominican this Thursday.
In the opener, Azusa Pacific got on the board in the second inning for a single run despite loading the bases. Sophomore first baseman Jessica Melcher got the inning started when she reached on a strike-three passed ball with one out in the frame. A pair of infield singles loaded the bases for the Cougars, and Melcher scored from third on a wild pitch to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead.
An inning later, junior centerfielder Sona Babayan hit an RBI triple into right-center, pushing the last to 2-0, and Melcher followed with a one-out run-scoring single that plated Babayan for a 3-0 lead. The Cougars added another insurance run with a two-out rally in the fifth inning. Babayan hit a two-out single to right on the first pitch she saw, and she came all the way around to score when Melcher gapped a two-out double on a 1-0 pitch she drove into left-center.
In the second game, freshman Nicki Sprague bounced back from a hitless opener to go two-for-three with an RBI triple. Her infield hit in the fourth inning of the nightcap sparked the first of back-to-back three-run innings as she scored on a run-scoring double off the bat of sophomore catcher Madison Hernandez. In both innings, the Cougars used three hits and at least one HIU error to score three runs and put together a 6-0 final score.
Sprague was the only offensive player with two hits in the second game, her team-high 23rd multi-hit game of the year, and Babayan, Melcher, and junior shortstop Desiree Chavez each collected a pair of hits in the opening game of the sweep.
The sweep extended Azusa Pacific’s long series winning streak against Hope International, a former conference foe before the Cougars began competing in NCAA Division II and the Pacific West Conference last season, to 24 consecutive wins.
Azusa Pacific returns to PacWest play with a trip to the Bay Area this week, visiting Dominican on Thursday, April 10, before taking on Academy of Art in Friday and Saturday matchups. All three doubleheaders start at noon.