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Paxton Plates 'Em

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March 1, 2005
Gary Pine
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AZUSA, Calif. – Shawna Paxton’s sharp single to right field scored Tami Carter from second base with 1 out in the bottom of the seventh to lift the NAIA’s No. 18-ranked Azusa Pacific to a 6-5 victory and a nonconference doubleheader sweep of Cal State San Bernardino. The Cougars won the first game 6-1.

In a see-saw affair in which there were 4 lead changes, Azusa Pacific rallied in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game at 5-5 when Cassi Sweeney lifted a sacrifice fly to left field to score Justine Barnett. After Cougar pitcher Kris Franks retired the Coyote side in order in the top seventh, Carter lined a 1-out single off the third baseman’s glove and then stole second base, setting the stage for Paxton, who up to that point was just 1-for-6 on the evening.

“I went up to plate thinking the past was the past, and not thinking about my struggles at the plate,” said Paxton, who just returned to play this past weekend after missing nearly a month of action with a broken wrist. “My teammates were encouraging me, and the pitcher just left a fat one out there for me.”

Carter actually never reached home plate but was ruled safe when Coyote catcher Crystal Fraijo was called for obstruction on the play.

Paxton’s heroics saved Franks, who was near perfect in the first game but had her struggles in the nightcap after relieving starter Michelle Coleman in the fifth inning. In the sixth, Cal State San Bernardino, loaded the bases with no outs, scored on a wild pitch to knot the score at 4-4, and later took a 5-4 lead on a Molly Vitelli single. However, Franks got out of the jam without further damage, and the Cougars eventually rallied for their first come-from-behind victory.

In the first game, Azusa Pacific scored in each of the first 4 innings to run out to 6-0 lead. The top 4 batters in the Cougar line-up accounted for 8 of Azusa Pacific’s 10 hits and 5 runs. Sweeney’s first-inning double to left field put Azusa Pacific up 2-0.

That was more than enough for Franks who limited the Coyotes to just 2 hits through 6 innings. In the top of the seventh, Cal State strung together 2 hits including a 2-out double by Fraijo, who eventually scored to keep Franks from collecting her fourth shutout of the season.

Franks claimed wins in both games to push her record to 7-1. Sophomore outfielder Courtney Cleaves led the Cougar offense by going 5-for-6 with 2 doubles. Freshman Natalie Mickelson was 3-for-5 with 4 runs scored and 3 RBIs, 2 of which came off her team-leading sixth home run of the season which put Azusa Pacific up 2-0 in the first inning of the second game.

With the sweep, Azusa Pacific improves to 14-2 on the season to match the best start in program history (the 2003 team also won 14 of its first 16 games).