CHULA VISTA, Calif. -- Keenly aware that her teammates needed a pick-me-up, sophomore Rachel Alkire, turned as she walked to the plate and told her colleagues that she was hitting this one out. She is a lady of her word.
Alkire, the GSAC’s co-Player of the Year, cranked a grand slam to deep centerfield to single-handedly lift Azusa Pacific off the mat and propel the Cougars to a 7-4 victory over The Master’s College, in an elimination game of the NAIA Region II Playoffs at the Arco Olympic Training Site. The victory kept the Cougars’ season alive and softened the blow of an 8-7 setback to Concordia earlier in the day in first-round action.
Disheartened by the loss to Concordia, Azusa Pacific had to turn right around and play The Master’s, which took advantage of a downtrodden and unfocussed set of Cougars by using a trio of fielding miscues to tally 3 unearned runs and assume a 4-0 lead midway through the fifth inning.
However, in the bottom half of the inning, with the bases full and 2 outs, Alkire launched her GSAC-leading 12th home run of the season, scoring Aurion Sanchez, Megan Carpenter, and Jennie Waleszonia ahead of her to not only even the score but awaken the Cougar bats.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Cougars took advantage of back-to-back errors by the Mustang shortstop and second baseman to push across a pair of runs for a 6-4 lead. Alkire then singled home her twin Megan Alkire to cap the comeback from a 4-run deficit and clinch the victory.
In the opening game, Azusa Pacific let a 3-0 lead slip through its hands and then rallied from 5 runs down only to come up one hit short of securing victory in the 1-run loss to Concordia.
The Cougars appeared to have everything under control in the early going, up 3-0 with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the second inning. However, they wouldn’t score again until the seventh inning and in the mean time Concordia crossed the plate 8 times, including 6 in the sixth inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, Rachel Alkire led off the inning with her 11th home run to get the Cougars to within 3 at 8-5. A Trisho Rico double followed by Cassie Lakey single sent home another 2 runs to pull the Cougars to within a run at 8-7. Lakey then stole second, and with Rico at third, the Cougars had the tying and winning runs in scoring position with just 1 out and the Nos. 2 and 3 hitters coming up. However, Megan Carpenter popped out to second and Megan Alkire flew out to centerfield to end the treat and allow Concordia to escape with the victory.
With the split, Azusa Pacific is now 41-19 on the season. Concordia, which later in the day defeated top-seed Point Loma Nazarene, 6-1, to advance into the championship round, is now 37-20. The Master’s has its season come to an end at 37-19.
Azusa Pacific meets Point Loma Nazarene in a noon elimination game on Wednesday (May 7). The winner of that game will take on Concordia in a regional championship game at 2:30 p.m. later in the day.