Riverside, Calif. - Finding the championship form that eluded them a week prior, the Pacific softball team put together back-to-back stellar efforts to take the opening doubleheader from UC Riverside on Friday, April 6. The Tigers took game one 3-2 with a late inning rally before dominating game two, 9-1, in five innings. The wins moved the Tigers to 23-13 overall and 3-2 in the Big West while the Highlanders fell to 18-19 on the year and 1-4 in conference action.
For the first time in the 2012 season, the Tigers mounted a late game rally that culminated in victory as Pacific erased a 2-0 deficit over the final two innings of play to win. Down 2-0 in the sixth inning, the Tigers rallied for a pair of runs in the inning to tie the game before tacking on a single run in the top of the seventh to come away with the with the 3-2 win.
Lead by the hottest hitter in Big West play, sophomore Kelsey Rodriguez, the Tigers began their rally in the sixth with a double to the gap in left center that capped off a 3-for-4 effort from the sophomore designated player. With Rodriguez on, senior Alexa Rivera blooped a single into right that gave Pacific hope for a big inning. After the first out of the inning was recorded, Pacific picked up its first run of the game on a wild pitch walk to junior Amy Moore as the final ball got away from the Highlanders' catcher just far enough for Rodriguez to score and Rivera to move to third after having advance to second on an earlier wild pitch. From their, junior Megan Allen produced the game-tying hit for the Tigers with another bloop single to right that plated Rivera and knotted the game at two runs a piece.
With life breathed back into the game for Pacific, the Tigers put the finishing touches on their late game rally in their final at bat as the offense took advantage of mistakes both in the field and in the circle to push the game-winning run across the plate. After beginning the inning off with a one-out walk, senior Nicole Matson put pressure on the Highlander defense by stealing her team-leading 13th base of the season. With a runner in scoring position, the Highlanders committed a fatal mistake in the field when a ground ball to first resulted in a throw to third instead of an out to give Pacific runners at the corners and only one out. That mistake would prove to be the biggest mistake of the game as sophomore Taylor Petty lifted a deep fly ball to left that should have ended the inning, but instead became a game-winning sacrifice fly for the right-fielder.
On the defensive side of the ball, sophomore Tori Shepard continued her dominance in the circle as she threw team-best ninth complete game of the season to improve to 9-4 on the year. The sophomore gave up just two runs in the game, only one earned, as the Highlanders picked up five hits to go along with four Tiger errors. Despite the issues in the field, Shepard was able to pitch out of jams in third and fifth innings to keep her Tigers close which she was richly rewarded for by her offense late in the game.
With the Tigers still riding high from their rally in game one, Pacific made short work of the Highlanders in the second game of the day to pick up the sweep. Despite just playing five innings, the Tigers posted a season-high 14 hits while scoring nine runs to dismantle a UC Riverside team that had been previously nearly unbeatable at home. In all, all nine Pacific starters recorded a hit in the contest with four of the top five hitters recording at least two hits.
For the Tigers, the big blows came in just a single inning of work as Pacific posted an eight run fourth inning to run away with the late afternoon contest. Tied at 1-1, the Tigers sent 13 batters to the plate in the inning and came up with seven hits to score their eight runs that put the game in the run-rule territory.
After beginning the inning with an out, that Tigers went to work as 10 straight hitters reached base safely beginning with a walk to Matson. Back-to-back singles by Rivera and Petty loaded the bases for Moore who worked a walk of her own to pick up one of the easiest game-winning RBIs of her career. With the bases still loaded, Allen came up big once again as the junior laced a double off the wall in left-center to plate two more runs. Not to be outdone, Hom followed suit with a double of her own down the right field line, pushing two more Tigers across the plate and busting the game open at 6-1.
After a walk to sophomore Megan Foglesong from a new Highlander pitcher, Rodriguez picked up where she left off with a double to center field to bring home Hom. Having committed the first out of the inning to begin the fourth, junior Nikki Armagost made up for her earlier ground out with a single to left, plating the eighth run of the day with her first RBI of conference action. Following the junior's lead, Matson roped a single of her own back up the middle to cap the inning for the Tigers with the eighth run of the frame and ninth and final run of the day.
Prior to Pacific's big inning, the Tigers picked up the first run of the game in the second when Moore singled home Matson who had singled to leadoff the inning. In the same inning the Highlanders scored their only run of the game on a two-out solo home run from Dionne Anderson The home run would be the only mistake of the game for Armagost who picked up her eighth win of the season and first of conference play for the Tigers.
In all, Armagost went all five for the Tigers as the junior gave up just three hits while striking out two and walking none.
Offensively, Rodriguez put together another stellar showing in game two as the sophomore went 3-for-4 with one RBI and one run scored. For the day, Rodriguez posted six hits in eight trips to the plate. In addition to Rodriguez, Hom, Foglesong and Matson each picked up a pair of hits with Hom recording a pair of RBI.
The Tigers will look for the series sweep on Saturday, April 7 when they take on the Highlanders in the third game of the series at Harrison Field. The game is scheduled for 12:00 pm.