AZUSA, Calif. – Azusa Pacific split a pair of 1-run decisions with GSAC rival Biola, taking the first game 4-3 in 8 innings before dropping the nightcap, 2-1.
The split decision doesn’t help Azusa Pacific in its pursuit for the fourth and final berth into the NAIA Regional Playoffs. The Cougars still trail Concordia by a game-and-a-half for the last spot with 8 games left, including 4 against Top-10-ranked teams.
In the opening game with Biola, Cassi Sweeney’s suicide squeeze brought Courtney Cleaves home with the game-winning run. It was the Cougars’ second successful squeeze of the game. Azusa Pacific tied the contest at 2-2 in the sixth when Natalie Mickelson laid down a perfect bunt toward Eagle third baseman Joanna Gray, who was unable to get the ball out of her glove, allowing Cleaves to slide home with the game-tying run.
Biola answered with a run in the top of the seventh without hitting the ball out of the infield. With 2 outs, Sarah Jensen lined a shot off the foot of Cougar pitcher Kris Franks, who then picked up the ball and trotted toward first. However, her shuttle toss went wide left and down the right field line. Jensen raced to third and came home when Sweeney’s throw to third base bounced away.
Azusa Pacific responded in similar style in the bottom of the seventh. With one out and Rachel Alkire at second base, Lori Shimasaki laid down a bunt which Gray fielded, however her throw was in the baseline, and Shimasaki collided with Jensen’s glove at first base, jarring the ball and allowing Alkire to come home to knot the game at 3-3 and force extra innings.
Franks worked all 8 innings, striking out 4 and yielding 2 earned runs in the process to pick up the win and improve to 15-6 on the season.
The second game was a masterful pitcher’s dual between’s Biola Tatiana Garcia and Azusa Pacific’s Megan Alkire. In fact, Alkire retired the first 13 batters and had a no-hitter through 5.1 innings. However, with 1 out in the sixth, Amerra Kesterson singled to left to break up the no-hitter. Stacey Duncan reached on a fielder’s choice and with 2 outs both Kesterson and Duncan came home on Dawn Potter’s single to center.
Azusa Pacific tried to rally in the bottom of the seventh, ending Garcia’s shutout hopes when Sweeny scored on a Jensen error at first with 1 out. However, the Cougars could get no closer and left the tying run at first base.
Alkire allowed just the 2 sixth-inning hits and yet suffered the defeat to fall to 3-2 on the season. She struck out 4 and walked just 1.
The Cougars had just 9 hits on the day, and Cleaves was the only player with 2 safeties.
With the split, Azusa Pacific is now 27-11 overall, 7-9 in the GSAC. Biola is 28-10, 7-9 in the GSAC.