Pacific Opens Its Title Defense With A Split Against Cal State Northridge
Opening their home Big West schedule and beginning the defense of their conference title, the Pacific women's softball team split a doubleheader with Cal State Northridge (CSUN) on Sunday, April 1. The Matadors took game one 4-3 to begin the day before the Tigers rebounded with a 9-1 (6 inn.) win in game two. With the split, Pacific moved to 21-12 on the year and 1-1 in the Big West while the Matadors moved to 6-24 overall and 1-1 in conference play. In addition to opening conference play, the Tigers sported pink uniforms for the first time in program history as Pacific played in support of breast health awareness.
In the opening game of their weekend, the Tigers found themselves in an unexpected fight as the Matadors kept the pressure on Pacific that proved to be too much to overcome. Despite a hot start that saw junior Nikki Armagost strike out five of the first six Matadors she faced, the Tigers could not keep their quick beginning going as CSUN took advantage of Pacific mistakes in the third to take control of the contest.
In the first, the Tigers picked up a single run on a RBI ground out by sophomore Kelsey Rodriguez who drove a ball into the 5-6 hole with the bases loaded to put Pacific up 1-0. Despite getting one, the Tigers would leave a pair of runners in scoring position in the inning, a mistake that would prove costly two innings later.
Leading by one, the Tigers helped CSUN score three runs in the top of the third inning as Armagost lost control of the bottom of the order with a pair of walks, one coming on a hit by pitch, and an error in the field that loaded the bases for the top of the order. With runners at every base, Madeline Sale delivered the first hit of the contest for the Matadors with a two-RBI single to right-center. A play later, a ground ball that could have cut down the third run of the inning at the plate was mishandled by the Tigers in the field allowing CSUN to grab a 3-1 lead.
Pacific added a second run in the bottom half of the third when the top of the order again put together a scoring threat, culminating in a RBI walk to Rodriguez who came to the plate with the bases loaded and one out for the second straight at bat. However, a ground ball double play would end the threat for the Tigers, a theme that would be seen again in the bottom of the seventh as Pacific attempted to rally. Down 4-3 in the seventh, the Tigers loaded the bases once again with one out, this time for senior Nicole Matson. With the bases full, Matson suffered from horrible luck as she laced a ball down the third base line, only to see her potential game-winner snagged and turned into a game-ending double play by Jaci Carlsen.
Armagost suffered the loss for the Tigers to fall to 7-4 on the year as the jujinor went 4.0 innings, giving up three runs and three hits while striking out six. At the plate, Armagost went 3-for-4 while Rodriguez was 0-for-2 with two RBI.
Looking to shake off the stunning loss from the opening game, the Tigers got right back on track in game two as Pacific jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning and never looked back. After two walks and a hit by pitch loaded the bases with one out, Rodriguez found herself in a familiar position as she stepped to the plate for the third time with a chance to do major damage. Not wasting any time, Rodriguez laced a single to center that brought home the first two runs of the inning and got the Tigers rolling towards what would become a run-shortened contest. After Rodriguez, Rivera and junior Amy Moore picked up back-to-back RBI singles to spot the Tigers the early 4-0 lead.
After sending 10 to the plate in the first, the Tigers tacked on a single run in the second with five batters as Pacific benefited from the second of what would be four defensive miscues in the contest. After the error allowed Pacific a runner at third, Rodriguez delivered yet again, this time with a sacrifice fly to center that plated sophomore Megan Foglesong.
In the fifth and sixth, the Tigers put the game to bed with a pair of runs in bottom of each inning as Hom drove in the sixth run of the game with a sacrifice fly while the seventh run scored on a throwing error on the same play. On the throw home, freshman Alexi Johnson was able to avoid the tag at the plate to give Pacific a 6-1 lead while sophomore Gabby Goyette was able to trot home after an errant throw behind her on a back-pick play pushed Pacific's lead to 7-1. In the sixth, the Tigers ended the game an inning early as Matson roped a one-out double down the left field line to bring Rodriguez to the plate with a chance to win it. Just as she had done all day, Rodriguez came through, blasting a walk-off, two-run home run off the foul pole in left to give the Tigers the 9-1 win on her fourth and fifth RBIs of the game. She finished the day with seven RBI overall.
In the circle, sophomore Tori Shepard, who came in to game one in relief, pitched a six-inning complete game against the Matadors to earn her team-best eighth win of the season. The sophomore gave up just four hits and one run in the game to move to 8-4 on the year. In game one, Shepard gave up a single run on a sacrifice fly that snapped a 24.2 scoreless inning streak. She has given up just two runs in her last seven appearances.
The Tigers will look to take the season series from the Matadors on Monday, April 2, as the two teams square off in the rubber game of the three-game series at 2:00 pm at Bill Simoni Field.