IRVINE, Calif. – The NAIA’s No. 16-ranked Azusa Pacific is having a hard time getting on the upside of .500 in GSAC play and staying there. For the fourth time this season the Cougars split a GSAC doubleheader, beating No. 11 Concordia, 6-3, in the first game before falling 5-2 in the second game. While the split moves Azusa Pacific’s overall record to 26-8, the Cougars remain 6-6 in GSAC play, a game out of fourth place and a sure postseason bid.
In the first game, it appeared that Natalie Mickelson’s team-leading tenth home run of the season was going to stand up for the game’s only run. However, the Cougars exploded for 5 runs in the top of the seventh to blow open a pitcher’s dual. Mickelson squeezed home another run in that fateful seventh inning, and Megan Alkire had a 2-run single to left that scored Katie Beazley and Courtney Cleaves that put Azusa Pacific up 5-0 at the time.
In the end, the Cougars needed those extra runs. Pitcher Kris Franks, who had dominated throughout the game, yielding just 2 hits while striking out 9 was just 1 out away from her team-leading seventh shutout of the season. However, the Eagles used a 2-out walk and back-to-back singles to plate a run and then parlayed a Cougar error into another pair of runs to cut the Cougar lead in half. However, Franks eventually squelched the uprising to move her record to 14-5.
In the nightcap Azusa Pacific got the leadoff batter on in each of the first 3 innings, but the Cougars didn’t get their first hit until Alkire led off the sixth inning with her sixth home run of the season. By then it was too late. The Eagles scored 4 runs in the second inning, taking advantage of 5 singles, a double and 1 Cougar error to assume a comfortable 5-0 lead. That was more than enough for Concordia pitcher Natalie Brown, who struck out 5 while improving to 17-8 on the season.
On the day, Alkire went 4-for-7 with 3 RBIs. Over the past month (17 games), she is batting .469 (23-for-49) with 15 RBIs, 6 doubles and 3 home runs. Cleaves, Beazley, Mickelson, Lori Shimasaki and Tami Carter all had 2 hits vs. Concordia.
Azusa Pacific has a chance to gain some much-needed ground with 6 key GSAC contests this week, all at home. The Cougars host Vanguard on Tuesday and Biola on Wednesday, followed by a visit from GSAC-frontrunner Cal Baptist on Saturday.