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Running in Circles

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April 3, 2003
Gary Pine
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LA MIRADA, Calif. –- The NAIA’s No. 14-ranked Azusa Pacific is struggling with consistency – at the plate, out in the field and in the circle. In any one game, the Cougars can excel in all 3 facets of softball, looking like national champions in their performance. However, in any other game, they may fail miserably in just 1 facet, forcing them to suffer defeat.

Inconsistency cut the Cougars down today in a GSAC doubleheader split at Biola. The Cougars collected 11 hits en route to an 8-1 victory in the first game and then managed just 4 safeties in the nightcap, falling 5-2 and enduring a serious hit to their pursuit for second place in the GSAC.

Azusa Pacific wasted little time taking control of the first game, sprinting out to a 5-0 lead by the second inning. Rachel Alkire’s 1-out double to right-center scored Megan Alkire and Jennie Waleszonia to put the Cougars up 2-0 in the first inning. Megan Carpenter then highlighted a 3-run second with her a second home run of the season, a 2-run blast to centerfield that scored Aurion Sanchez, who had doubled earlier in the inning.

Biola used a couple of Cougar errors to plate its only run of the game in the third inning.

Sasha Budde then capped the scoring in the fourth inning with a 2-run home run to right field, her second round tripper of the season, that scored Rachel Alkire as well. Earlier, Alkire had singled to score Megan Alkire to push the Cougar cushion to 6-1.

Biola could mount little against the pitching of Rachel Alkire, who 4-hit the Eagles and struck out 6 while walking just one. She improves to 5-3 on the season. Alkire has now yielded just 1 earned run in her past 20 innings of work while striking out 14. And when the dust had settled from the first game, Alkire was also 3-for-4 at the plate with 3 RBIs, a run and a double.

In the nightcap, the Cougars lost their focus and with it their momentum. Biola parlayed a pair of Cougar miscues in the field into a 2-0 lead by the end of the fourth inning. The Eagles then strung together 3 hits, including a double down the leftfield line, to tally another run and assume a comfortable 3-0 lead through 5 innings.

Azusa Pacific rallied back when Shawna Paxton cranked her third home run of the season, a 2-run shot to centerfield that scored Rachel Alkire and pulled the Cougars to within 1 at 3-2 in the sixth inning. However, Biola answered in its half of the sixth with 3 singles, including Jessica Clark’s 2-out safety up the middle that scored 2 runs for the final 5-2 margin of victory.

The Cougars managed just 4 hits off Joanna Gray, and the hottest Cougar of them all – Rachel Alkire – got 2 of them. In the past 2 GSAC doubleheaders vs. Point Loma and Biola, Alkire is 7-for-13 with 4 RBIs, 3 runs, 2 doubles and a triple.

With the split Azusa Pacific now stands at 28-12 on the season, which includes an 11-9 mark in conference play, good enough for fourth place. Biola moves to 20-19 overall, 8-11 in the GSAC.