The double loss puts a huge dent into Azusa Pacific’s playoff aspirations.
In the first game, the Cougars had no answer to the spell-binding pitching of Vanguard’s Jennifer Olvera, who became only the third pitcher this season to shut out Azusa Pacific. Olvera allowed just 5 hits and struck out 10 Cougars in the process. She also produced key outs in critical situations. With the Lions leading 2-0 in the first inning, Olvera got Shawna Paxton to strike out on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded to end the threat. In the third inning, Azusa Pacific put runners and second and third with no outs, but Olvera struck out Megan Alkire and Cassi Sweeney and then induced Paxton into a ground out to preserve the shutout.
In the nightcap, Vanguard scored its first 5 runs with 2 outs, including 3 after the Cougars thought they had a third strike to get out of the inning. Pitcher Kris Franks was dominating through the first 8 batters of the game, striking out 3 while producing 4 ground outs. Beth Burchell’s 2-out single to left seemed meaningless at the time, but it opened the gate to a 4-run third inning. Rachel Bomgren followed with another single and Holly Martinez’s single sent Burchell home to cut the Cougar lead to 2-1. Ashley Mauro then worked Franks to a 3-1 count though the Cougar coaching staff vehemently protested 2 pitches at the knees that they felt were strikes. Instead, Mauro launched the fifth pitch deep over the left-centerfield wall for her third home run of the season, a 3-run shot that gave the Lions a 4-2 lead that they would not relinquish.
The Lions pushed across another run in the fourth inning on Lauren Manriquez’s 2-out single to left that scored Noelle Navarette to up the Vanguard lead to 5-2. The Lions added 4 more runs on 3 hits and 2 Cougar errors to blow open the game.
Mauro, who also had a run-scoring single in the first game, finished the day 3-for-6 with 4 RBIs.
For Azusa Pacific, Alkire was 3-for-6 and accounted for Azusa Pacific’s only 2 runs on a sharp single to left that scored Justine Barnett and Courtney Cleaves to put the Cougars up 2-0 in the first inning of the second game. However, Vanguard pitcher Krista Mahon settled down and retired the final 15 Cougars in a row to finish with a 4 hitter.
Vanguard, which has now 6 of the past 7 meetings with Azusa Pacific, improves to 18-20 on the season, 5-11 in the GSAC. Azusa Pacific falls to 26-10 overall, 6-8 in the GSAC and now trails Biola by 2 games for the fourth and final playoff berth. The Cougars host Biola Wednesday (April 13) at 4 p.m..