BRISBANE, Calif. -- Armed with momentum from its first road sweep in Pacific West Conference play, Azusa Pacific won both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader, 6-4 and 6-3, to complete a four-game series sweep on the road against Academy of Art and win five of six games in this week’s Bay Area road trip.
The Cougars have completed the road portion of their conference schedule, going 10-6 in conference road games while improving to 37-15 overall and 20-10 in the PacWest. All that remains in the regular season for Azusa Pacific is a non-conference doubleheader at Vanguard on April 16, followed by the Monday, April 21 doubleheader at home against BYU-Hawaii.
On Saturday, junior shortstop Desiree Chavez sparked the Cougars to a come-from-behind 6-4 win in the opener with a three-for-three performance at the plate, and junior second baseman Katrina Oviedo smashed her third home run of the series to highlight another six-run offensive performance in a 6-3 victory.
As a team, Azusa Pacific hit .352, scored 36 runs, and had four hitters who batted .400 or higher in the four-game series. Chavez led the way, going nine-for-14 (.643) against Academy of Art, and Oviedo was seven-for-14 (.500) with three home runs, eight runs scored, and eight RBIs.
Meanwhile, freshman lefthander Carly Xepoleas continued her strong campaign with five more innings of shutout pitching in the second game Saturday, earning her fifth win this week while improving her season record to 16-4. On the week, Xepoleas went 5-0 with a 0.27 ERA and two complete-game shutouts, and she picked up three of the Cougars’ four wins in the Academy of Art series.
Oviedo’s one-out triple in the first inning of Saturday’s opener allowed her to open the scoring on freshman third baseman Nicki Sprague’s infield single, but the Urban Knights answered in the bottom of the first with three consecutive singles followed by a Taylor Thurman grand slam to put the Cougars at an early 4-1 disadvantage.
Starting in the third inning, Azusa Pacific began chipping away at the lead, starting with a pair of two-out runs in the third and one more to tie the game on an error in the fourth inning. It was another two-out rally that decided the game in the fifth, when sophomore first baseman Jessica Melcher kept the frame alive with a two-out single up the middle. Sophomore pitcher Narissa Garcia drew a two-out walk, and junior centerfielder Renae Chappelle doubled to left-center to score Melcher and break the 4-4 tie. Chavez followed with an RBI single to center that extended the lead to 6-4.
Garcia fired four shutout frames after giving up the first-inning home run, and junior righthander Destinee Levesque picked up the save by tossing two perfect innings with one strikeout to preserve the win.
In the second game, Oviedo picked up another first-inning hit that turned into a run for a 1-0 lead, and in the bottom of the inning Xepoleas got out of trouble after issuing a leadoff walk with an inning-ending double play with two runners on. She tossed four more scoreless innings, and the Cougars added three runs in the fourth and two more on Oviedo’s one-out home run in the sixth to make it a 6-0 lead. Academy of Art cut into the lead with two runs in the bottom of the sixth, and with one out in the seventh Thurman was hit by pitch with the bases loaded to force in a run. That cut the lead to 6-3 and put the potential tying run on the bases, but Levesque struck out pinch-hitter Jessica Marin for the second out of the inning before retiring Elise Oldham on a game-ending groundout.
Oviedo was two-for-four with a walk, scoring three runs in the game, while Sprague went three-for-four with an RBI to raise her season batting average to .513 heading into the final four games of the regular season.
With the sweep, Azusa Pacific picked up a game in the PacWest standings on conference co-leaders Dixie State and California Baptist, who both had breaks from conference play this week. Academy of Art dropped to 12-24 overall and 9-11 in the PacWest.