Freshmen propel softball to win home opener

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Freshman infielder Nicki Sprague smashed this pitch into right center for her first home run of the year—part of a very successful day on offense for the Cougars. Photo credit: Steven Mercado

Freshmen infielder Nicki Sprague and outfielder Abry Moreno powered through the first home doubleheader of their young careers in Friday’s sweep over the La Sierra Golden Eagles. The Cougars won game one with a score of 4-3 and game two with a score of 10-3.

The Cougars smacked a total of 24 hits on the day. The two freshmen went a combined 10-for-11 over the span of the two games. Sprague reached base every time she came to the plate on Friday and Moreno registered six hits on the day.

Game one was a strong all-around game for the Cougars. The action started in the second inning when sophomore pitcher Narissa Garcia singled to center field with one out. Moreno followed with a single to center and junior shortstop Desiree Chavez singled with a bunt down the third-base line. A fielding error at first base resulted in Garcia scoring the first run of the game. Chavez stole second and Moreno scored to put the Cougars up 2-0 as the catcher’s throw to second was off target and bounced into center field.

Sprague led off the third inning with a blast to right center for her first home run of the year, pushing the lead to 3-0. The Cougars kept that lead for five innings, thanks to Garcia’s strong pitching. She tossed five strong innings, giving up two hits with no runs allowed.

In the top of the sixth inning, the fatigue set in and Garcia was losing control of her pitches. She gave up two singles to start the inning, followed by a walk and a two-run double to left field. Junior pitcher Destiny Levesque came in relief and closed out the inning after a sacrifice fly tied the game, 3-3.

During the bottom half of the inning, Garcia was hit in the back by a pitch with one out and junior outfielder Rebecca Dawson came in to pinch-run for the sophomore pitcher. Dawson stole second and scored off a double from Moreno. This shot into left center ended up being the game-winning hit for the Cougars.

Levesque closed out the game in orderly fashion, striking out two of the three final batters of game one for a 4-3 win.

Game two brought a rocky start for the Cougars. Levesque took a beating in the first inning, giving up three runs off four hits. After a triple from La Sierra to start the second inning, freshman pitcher Carly Xepoleas came in for relief and finished the remaining six innings. It was another stellar outing from the freshman lefty, pitching a one-hitter and shutting out the Golden Eagles for her third win of the season.

The Cougars scored one run in the first. Junior second baseman Katrina Oviedo singled to left, followed by a double from Sprague. Hernandez then reached base on a fielder’s choice to the shortstop and Oviedo scored for APU’s first run of the game.

Any traces of a rough start were slammed away in the bottom half of the second when the Cougars batted around the order and 11 came to the plate to produce six runs off six hits.

The rally started with sophomore outfielder Janelle Eccles smacking a double into right center. Freshman catcher Jaime Bejarano’s sacrifice bunt advanced Eccles to third and Moreno’s single to left center brought Eccles home to make the score 3-1. Chavez followed with a single and two batters later, Sprague doubled Moreno home to make it 3-2. Sophomore catcher Madison Hernandez reached base on a fielding error by the Golden Eagles. The error brought Sprague and Chavez home, giving the Cougars the lead, 4-3. This ended the day for La Sierra freshman pitcher Emily Campos, who received a loss for each game of the doubleheader.

Golden Eagles freshman pitcher Jackie Zacarias came in relief, only to give up a single to junior outfielder Sona Babayan, a walk to sophomore first baseman Jessica Melcher that loaded the bases and an RBI single from Eccles for her second hit of the inning. Bejarano walked on four pitches, bringing Babayan home for a 7-3 lead, capping off the six-run second.

The last three runs of the game were insurance tallies scored by the Cougars in the fifth inning. Moreno started it with a single to left. Chavez sacrificed down the third-base line to move Moreno to second. Oviedo singled to left and Sprague followed with a walk to load the bases. Hernandez then doubled to right center to clear the bases and drive in three to make the score 10-3.

The Cougars now hold a 7-2 record going into Saturday, Feb. 15‘s doubleheader against Biola. This is their last matchup before heading into conference play Monday, Feb. 17 against Hawai’i Pacific.

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