AZUSA, Calif. –- The Cougars got the sendoff gift they wanted.
Azusa Pacific, which heads to Hawaii next week for 8 games, closed out Golden State Athletic Conference play today with a much-needed sweep of California Baptist, beating the Lancers in Azusa by scores of 3-2 and 4-2, to put some distance between itself and 3 other teams vying for 2 playoff spots.
In the opening game, with the Cougars’ down 2-1, Rachel Alkire’s GSAC-leading 18th double of the season with 1 out in the bottom of the seventh sent Crissy Butler home to tie the game at 2-2, and when the relay throw trickled away from Lancer catcher Angela Funk, Jennie Waleszonia trotted in from third with the game-winning run.
California Baptist took a quick 2-0 lead in the second inning by scoring a pair of unearned runs that nearly stood up for the victory. Waleszonia dropped a potential double-play ball that kept the door open for the Lancers. Jenny Stole took advantage and lined a 2-out, bases-loaded double to put California Baptist up.
Freshman pitcher Kris Franks came on in relief at that point and gave Azusa Pacific a chance to rally by no-hitting the Lancers over the final 5.1 innings of the game while striking out 8 in the process.
The Cougars’ cut their deficit in half in the fourth inning when Cassie Lakey ripped a single just inside the third base bag to score Aurion Sanchez. Lakey finished with her fifth 3-hit game of the season, going 3-for-3 with an RBI.
In the nightcap, Azusa Pacific snapped a 1-1 tie with a 3-run outburst in the sixth inning and then held on for the victory. Again Franks came on in relief and picked up the win, her third in as many games over the past 3 days to improve to 8-4 on the season.
Alkire’s school-recording tying 19th double of the season scored her twin Megan, who had doubled earlier in the inning to give Azusa Pacific a 2-1 lead. Freshman Shawna Paxton then singled home Rachel, and Trisha Rico capped the scoring with another double that plated pinch-runner Crissy Butler
Sophomore Michelle Coleman, who started the game in the circle for Azusa Pacific, was quite effective before giving way to Franks. Coleman had retired 10 of 11 batters over 3-plus innings before tiring in the sixth. She struck out 4 and did not walk a Lancer. Coleman has now gone 26.1 innings without surrendering a walk and has yielded just 4 free passes in 57.1 inning this season.
Waleszonia snapped out of 3-for-16 funk by going 2-for-3 in the nightcap, which included an RBI single that put Azusa Pacific up 1-0 in the first inning.
With the sweep, Azusa Pacific improves to 34-14 on the season and finishes GSAC play 17-11. California Baptist, which is still in the hunt for a playoff berth, falls to 36-17 overall, 10-10 in the GSAC. The Cougars need California Baptist to lose at least 2 of its 8 remaining GSAC games to clinch a berth into the NAIA regional playoffs. The Lancers still have 4 games with The Master’s, and 2 each with Point Loma Nazarene and Hope International on their slate.