HILO, Hawaii. –- Freshman Shawn Paxton continued her emergence onto the collegiate scene in a most dramatic fashion. The rookie came off the bench in the second game to slug a pinch-hit grand slam over the centerfield wall and lift the NAIA’s No. 14-ranked Azusa Pacific to a 6-3 victory and a doubleheader split with NCAA Division II Hawaii-Hilo.
The blast, Paxton’s fourth of the season and all in the past 3 weeks, broke open a tight game and gave the Cougars a 5-0 lead after 4 innings of play. That was more than enough for Cougar pitchers Nicole Hendrix and Kris Franks, who combined to scatter 8 Vulcan hits over 7 innings. Hendrix, who picked up the win and improves to 7-2 on the season, struck 4 and walked 1 before tiring and surrendering 3 straight singles in the bottom of the fifth. Franks, this week’s GSAC Pitcher of the Week, came on in relief and 1-hit Hilo the rest of the way to pick up her second save in a week.
Junior Megan Carpenter connected on her third home run of the season, a solo blast in the sixth inning to cap a 3-for-4 performance.
Paxton opened her collegiate career batting.269 through the first 22 games. However, over the past 18 games, she is batting .356 with 4 home runs and 11 RBIs.
In the opening game, a first-inning error wiped out an outstanding pitching performance by Azusa Pacific’s Megan Alkire, who 4-hit the Vulcans and struck out 2 yet still suffered the loss to fall to 7-4 on the season.
Hawaii-Hilo scored the game’s lone run in the first inning, and it was tallied without the benefit of a hit. The Vulcans’ parlayed a game-opening walk into a run by taking advantage of a 2-base throwing error. Azusa Pacific threatened to at least tie the game in the sixth inning by putting runners at first and second with 1 out but was unable to push across a run.
The 2 teams will meet again on Tuesday (April 15). With the split Azusa Pacific moves to 35-15 on the season while Hawaii-Hilo is now 24-13.