AZUSA, Calif. – The NAIA’s No. 18-ranked Azusa Pacific did what it was supposed to – dispose of Patten University in a quick and orderly fashion by beating the Lions 8-0 and 11-0 in 2 mercy-ruled verdicts. What was rather surprising, however, were the notable individual performances turned in by a selected set of Cougars.
Sophomore OF Lori Shimasaki was the catalyst at the plate, going 6-for-6 on the day without ever hitting the ball out of the infield. In the process she scored 4 times and stole 6 bases. Meanwhile, freshman catcher Natalie Mickelson went 3-for-4 with 3 RBIs, 2 of which came off his third home run of the season in just her eighth collegiate game.
And as good as the Cougars were at the plate, they were even better in the pitcher’s circle. Kris Franks and Michelle Coleman reminded Azusa Pacific coach Sharon Lehman what could have been in 2004. The 2 hurlers missed nearly all of last year with injuries depleting what as supposed to be a strong Cougar pitching staff. Back at full health this year, the 2 were sterling in their 2005 home debut.
In the first game, Franks fired a 4-hit shutout, the third of her career, and struck out 6 in 5 innings of complete-game work. She allowed just 1 runner to second base and was in command throughout the entire game. Coleman’s gem had even more shine to it. The junior out of nearby Charter Oak High School became only the eighth Cougar ever, and the first since 2000, to throw a no-hitter, holding Patten hitless for all 5 innings.
Coleman faced the minimum 15 batters, retiring the side in 4 of the 5 innings worked. Only 1 Lion reached base, via a Cougar error, but she immediately erased by a nifty double play started by Coleman herself. She struck out 2 and relied on some excellent defense behind her. Known for her ability to induce a ground ball, Coleman allowed just 1 fly-ball out while the other 12 outs came by way of a ground out.
In the opening game, the Cougars took a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning when Shimasaki led off with a bunt single, stole second and third bases and came home on Mickelson’s 2-out single to center. Patten pitcher Erika Vigil kept the Cougars in check over the next 2 innings but tired in the fourth when the Cougars exploded for 6 runs. Courtney Cleaves’ bases-loaded triple put Azusa Pacific up 5-0 at the time.
In the nightcap, Azusa Pacific scored in all 4 innings it batted. Mickelson crushed a 2-out bomb to left-center to put the Cougars up 2-0 in the first inning. In the second inning, Shimasaki’s 2-out infield single plated Jessica Mikesell to put the Cougars up 3-0. Shimasaki again stole second and third bases and came home when the catcher’s throw to third base sailed in left field.
Azusa Pacific added 7 more runs, including 4 in the fourth inning. The rest was up to Coleman, who picked up her second win of the season.
In all, the Cougars banged out 23 hits in just 9 innings of plate appearances with 11 different Cougars collecting safeties. Cleaves finished the day 3-for-4 with 4 RBIs. Megan Alkire was 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs.
Shimasaki, a transfer from NCAA Division I power Oklahoma, has been nothing short of amazing in her Cougar debut. Through the first 8 games, Shimasaki has 21 hits in 30 at-bats and is batting a whopping .700 with 12 runs scored and 10 stolen bases. Shimasaki’s fellow first-year Cougar, Mickelson, is batting .480 with team-highs of 3 home runs and 13 RBIs.
With the victory, Azusa Pacific improves to 7-1 on the season while Patten falls to 2-6. The Cougars level of competition moves up several notches when Azusa Pacific hosts NCAA Division II power Cal State Bakersfield Tuesday (Feb. 15) in a 4 p.m. doubleheader.