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The Launching Pad

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Published
March 10, 2005
By
Gary Pine
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AZUSA, Calif. – The NAIA’s No. 18-ranked Azusa Pacific showed no ill-effects of Tuesday’s gut-wrenching GSAC-opening loss by turning around and cleaning the clock of touring Culver-Stockton College, drubbing the Wildcats, 10-0 and 8-0, for a pair of mercy-ruled victories.

The Cougar rapped 20 hits in just 9 innings, including 9 extra-base safeties, and scored in 6 of their final 7 at-bats.

After a scoreless 2 innings in the first game, Azusa Pacific employed a knock-out punch of back-to-back 5-run innings to quickly turn out the lights with a 10-0 verdict. Cassie Sweeney, who was 3-for-6 on the day with 4 RBIs, laced the first of her 2triples, a 2-out, 2-run shot that scored Natalie Mickelson and Megan Alkire to put the Cougars up 5-0 in the third inning.

In their next appearance at the plate, the Cougars took advantage of a Wildcat fielding error to score 4 unearned runs. Alkire’s double to center scored Courtney Cleaves and Lori Shimasaki, and Sweeney followed with an RBI single.

Kris Franks pitched 5 innings of 3-hit softball, striking out 6 in the process of running her record to 10-2 on the season. She preserved her fifth shut out by pitching out of a pair of jams. Culver-Stockton opened the game with a Kaysi Eighinger double to left. Ashley Bethell followed with a single to center and the Wildcats had runners at first and third with no outs. However, Eighinger got picked off at third, and Franks then struck out the next batter and induced a grounder to escape.

Two innings later in the fourth, Culver-Stockton had the same situation, runners and first and third with no outs. Again Franks worked her way out with 2 ground outs and a strike out.

In the nightcap, with the Cougars already up 3-0, Mickelson led off the third inning with a triple to right center, and Sweeney followed with her second triple of the night, a shot just over the first baseman’s head to plate Mickelson. Sweeney came home on a Rachel Alkire ground out. Jessica Mikesell capped the inning with her first home run of the season, an opposite field solo shot to left to give Azusa Pacific a comfortable 6-0 cushion.

In the bottom of the fifth, Mikesel lined a 2-out single to left, and Tami Carter ended the game 2 pitches later with a rocket shot over the leftfield wall, her second home run of the season.

Much like Franks did in the first game, pitcher Michelle Coleman managed a couple of landmines to post her third shutout of the season and improve to 6-1. Again, CSC had a runners-at-first-and-third situation with no outs and failed to score as the Cougars picked off the runner at third followed with a couple of ground outs.

Later, the Wildcats again had 2 runners on with 1 out but Coleman thwarted the threat with 2 ground outs.

Carter finished the day 3-for-4 with 3 RBIs, while Shimasaki was 3-for-5 with 2 runs and a stolen base. By going 20-for-45 (.444) on the day, Azusa Pacific pushed its team batting average to a hefty .337.

With the sweep the Cougars improve to 19-3, still the best start in program history. Culver-Stockton has its 5-game winning streak snapped and falls to 7-5..