Stocton, Calif - Battling for first place in the conference, the Pacific softball team took home a split of their doubleheader with UC Davis on Friday, May 4 to keep a tenuous hold on first in the Big West. UC Davis took game one 6-4 before Pacific responded with a 1-0 win in game two. The Tigers moved to 33-17 overall and 12-5 in the Big West while the Aggies improved to 21-17 on the year and 11-6 in conference action.
In a game that started as a pitchers duel, the Tigers found themselves in a dogfight in the 7th inning of what was just a 2-0 game through the first six innings of action. Down two, the Tigers forced themselves into a major hole in the top of the seventh inning when the Aggies knocked out five hits and scored four runs to take a 6-0 lead with just three outs to go in the game. For Pacific, the inning turned on an infield error that may have led to an inning ending double play but instead prolonged the inning and allowed three unearned runs to cross the plate. The big hit came from the Rachel Miller as the catcher doubled home three runs with her fourth hit of the contest.
Down 6-0 and facing a pitcher in the Aggies' Justine Vela who had kept the Tigers off balance all game, Pacific went to work in their final at bat to attempt the comeback. Beginning with a walk to junior Amy Moore and a double by sophomore Megan Foglesong, the Tigers put themselves in position to get to Vela in their final at bat and at the least break up the shutout. With two aboard, junior Megan Hom delivered an infield single to plate the first run of the game and keep hope alive. A single off the pitcher loaded the bases for junior Nikki Armagost who would pick up a RBI on a ground ball to short that was mishandled by the Aggies. The ball, which could have potentially been a game-ending double play ball, kept Pacific alive once again as senior Nicole Matson stepped to the plate with a chance to tie the game.
For Matson, the at bat would lead to just one run as the senior worked a RBI walk to cut the Aggies lead in half and with it, knock Vela from the game. Facing a new pitcher, the Tigers grabbed a fourth run on a ground ball to the right side that cut the deficit to four runs, erasing the mistake of the top of the seventh, but giving two outs to the Aggies in the field. From there, Jessica Thweatt slammed the door on any hopes of a final rally as the Aggie junior grabbed her first and only strike out of the game to end the contest at 6-4.
Overall, Armagost suffered the loss to fall to 11-7 on the year as she threw all seven innings for Pacific. Armagost gave up 11 hits and six runs, only three earned, while striking out three and walking one. Her counterpart, Vela, held Pacific's potent offense in check for much of the day to grab her 17th win. The freshman struck out 11 in the contest as Pacific struck out 12 times in the game to go over 10+ strike outs in a game for the first time in 2012. Pacific's previous high for the season was seven which came in two different contests.
After seeing a pitching duel blow up into a crazy seventh in game one, the fans at Bill Simoni Field got the duel they were waiting for in game two of the day as sophomore Tori Shepard wove together one of her best performances of the season to lead the Tigers to the 1-0 win. Outdeuling both Thweatt and later Vela, Shepard stymied the Aggie offense for seven full innings as she gave up just three hits in the game to improve to 12-4 on the year.
Throughout the game, the Aggies threatened Shepard just once as an error on the first hit of the game, a bunt to the left side in the fourth, turned into three bases. Despite the problem, Shepard gamely pitched her way out of the jam and never looked back as she would give up another bunt single in the fifth and a leadoff single through the left side in the seventh before closing out the contest. In all, Shepard struck out two and walked two while relying on her defense to end innings throughout the afternoon, a defense that made spectacular play after spectacular play in support of their sophomore.
With Shepard throwing a gem, the Tiger offense was able to come through with the single run she would need for the win as Pacific notched a run in the fifth to give Shepard just enough support. After posting leadoff doubles in both the third and fourth innings that led to no runs, the Tigers finally came through in the bottom of the fifth when junior Megan Allen doubled off the wall to start the inning. Not letting it go to waste, the Tigers got the much needed bunt down to push Allen to third before sophomore Gabby Goyette singled to center to plate the game-winning run. Goyette, who was in the lineup due to injury, came up big throughout the contest as the second year play tallied two of the Tigers' seven hits to lead Pacific offensively.
For the Aggies, Vela suffered the loss as the freshman entered the game to begin the third after Thweatt was knocked out of the game by a line drive off her leg to end the second. Vela gave up four hits in four innings of work while adding four more strike outs and walking one. Prior to the injury, Thweatt had given up three hits in two innings, but kept the Tigers off the board as the junior struck out four.
The two teams will meet in a rubber game on Saturday, May 5, as the winner sets themselves up for a run at the Big West title in the final week of play with the loser essentially eliminated from the title hunt. The game is scheduled for 10:00 am as graduation ceremonies will be taking place around Pacific's campus throughout the day. Additionally, the Tigers will say goodbye to their two seniors, Matson and Alexa Rivera, before the start of the game as the two play their final home game at Bill Simoni Field.