Azusa Pacific baseball returned to their winning ways this past weekend, going 3-1 in their series against Point Loma. The Cougars are currently 34-8 on the season with only eight more games left before playoffs.
Last week was a different story, where the Cougars lost their first series of the season to PacWest rival, Cal Baptist (1-3). The tough defeat was a growing experience for the team, as the Cougars realized the need to tighten up on pitching and defense, and to start every game more aggressively.
“I don’t think that we played that great last weekend. It started with pitching and then that fed into what we did offensively and vice versa,” head coach Paul Svagdis said. “We were able to clean some of that up and start quicker as a team, defensively and on the mound, and that really helped us this week.”
Senior pitcher and team captain Michael Fairchild echoed this importance of winning this series.
“It was so important to bounce back. Going against Point Loma, winning three out of four, and taking the series really put us back in contention for winning the PacWest conference championship,” Fairchild said. “Overall, the guys perservered and did a really great job on defense. It was a great team win.”
The Cougars are currently 21-7 against PacWest opponents where they are pursuing the conference champion title, but are neck-and-neck with Dixie State and Cal Baptist.
Fairchild believes that the team will continue to succeed as players hold each other accountable in practice and on the field. He stated that the recent losses were a necessary process, as great teams prove themselves in the final stretch of the season. The team is taking their season one opponent at a time, and they all have one unanimous goal in mind.
“We’re going straight for the PacWest Championship. We want to win the conference championship bad, and I think everyone on the team knows that and is locked in on that goal,” Fairchild said. “Right now, we have in mind of winning each pitch, winning each game, winning each series and ultimately finishing strong so we can make playoffs.”
The Cougars will play their next series at Concordia on April 27-29. The team will finish out their last regular season series at home against Dixie State from May 8-10, which will most likely determine this year’s champions of the PacWest Conference.
Azusa Pacific softball is on a hot-streak after sweeping both Notre Dame de Namur and Holy Names at home this past weekend. Through those four games, the Cougars outscored their opponents by a total of 39-2 runs. The team is currently 31-17 this season.
The doubleheader against Holy Names also included the Cougars’ final home game of the season, which was when the team honored their seniors.
Senior starting pitcher Carly Xepoleas had a perfect game through six innings in the first game, shutting out the Hawks. This was her 15th career shutout as a Cougar.
“I go into every game with a steady approach, but with the realization throughout the day that this was the last home game of my career, I just tried to soak in the whole thing and make everything memorable,” Xepoleas said.
Senior second baseman Nikki Sprague also totaled seven RBIs on the day against Holy Names. The three-time PacWest Player of the Year continues to add to her stat book, totaling 60 RBIs this season, which leads the PacWest this season.
Outfielder Abry Moreno and pitcher Ariana von Zboray round out the seniors that were recognized.
“The girls had a lot of fun, and I think that’s always nice when you can walk off that field smiling and laughing, enjoying your teammates and enjoying their last time on that field,” head coach Carrie Webber said. “They did a great job and I love them tremendously. They have all done amazing things for this program at APU.”
With only two more games left in the regular season, the Cougars are looking to carry their momentum into the final series and into playoffs.
After a rough Tournament of Champions outing ended in early April, the Cougars have gone 9-1, with their only loss coming from Cal Baptist, who is currently in first place of the PacWest.
“The tide changed, and you want to be peaking at the end of season anyway, and that’s what we’re doing. We put ourselves in a good position to move forward past the regular season,” Webber said. “We want to take the momentum that we have right now…Take the small things that make up the entirety of the game, and just do them well against Concordia.”
The Cougars will take on Concordia in a doubleheader to close out the season on April 29 in Irvine, Calif.