AZUSA, CALIF. Sophomore Rachel Alkire launched a bomb deep into the dark of night that by the time it landed gave her a walk-off grand slam and Azusa Pacific a 6-2 victory and a much-needed sweep of Notre Dame de Namur.
For Alkire it was her second home run of the night and her GSAC-leading 10th of the season. She hit a 3-run shot in the first inning of the first game to propel the NAIA’s No. 13-ranked Azusa Pacific to a 10-0 mercy-ruled victory. Then in the nightcap, she crushed her second of the evening to centerfield with the bases full and no outs in the bottom of the eighth inning to complete Azusa Pacific’s comeback from a 2-0 hole.
With the sweep, Azusa Pacific clinches a berth into NAIA regional playoffs and improves to 40-18 on the season to become only the fifth Cougar team ever to win 40 games in a single campaign.
In the opener, Azusa Pacific parlayed Alkire’s 3-run home run in the first inning into a 7-run second inning to take a commanding 10-0 lead. Like Aklire, Megan Carpenter hit a 3-run home run to highlight the 7-run outburst. It was her fourth round-tripper of the season. Shawna Paxton cracked a 2-out, 2-run double to cap the inning and the scoring for the game. The rest was up to Alkire the pitcher, who 1-hit the Argonauts over the 5 innings played, striking out 3 in the process to improve to 6-5 on the season.
In the nightcap, the Cougars struggled to solve the pitching of Notre Dame’s Monique Barretto, managing just 3 hits through 5 innings. Using the most of its rare opportunities, Notre Dame needed just 4 hits to post 2 run by the fourth inning and assume a 2-0 lead.
Azusa Pacific cut its deficit in half in the fifth inning on Aurion Sanchez’s RBI single to center that scored Sasha Budde. The Cougars eventually loaded the bases with 1 out but were unable to push across another run.
In the sixth inning, Budde’s double to left field sent Alkire home from first base with the game-tying run with 1 out. Neither team could muster a runner in the seventh, forcing extra innings.
In the fateful eighth inning, Alkire made all 3 putouts in Notre Dame’s half of the inning, first grabbing a flare for the first out and then doubling off the runner at second base with a tag. The third out came on a pop up to Alkire.
Rachel Yoshizu opened the Cougars’ half of the eighth at second base and moved to third base on a nifty slide to avoid a tag off an attempted sacrifice from Megan Alkire. The Argonaut defense then tried to get Yoshizu out at third on Jennie Walezonia’s grounder but Yoshizu avoided the tag another time and got back safely, loading the bases and setting up Rachel Alkire’s heroics, the only hit of the inning.
Freshman pitcher Kris Franks struggled with her control most of the evening, falling behind on nearly every batter late in the game. Yet, she danced out of trouble every time to pick up her team-leading tenth victory against 5 defeats this season.
Rachel Alkire finished the doubleheader 4-for-7 with 7 RBIs and 3 runs scored. Waleszonia, playing in her final game in Azusa, was 3-for-7 with 2 doubles and a triple.
Notre Dame, which needed a sweep to keep its slim playoff hopes alive, instead sees its record fall to 34-19 on the season.
Azusa Pacific will now take next week off for final exams and return to the diamond at the NAIA regional playoffs in San Diego on Tuesday, May 6. First round pairings and game times will be announced Wednesday, April 30.