Stockton, Calif. - Putting together both strong pitching and timely hitting, the Pacific softball team grabbed both ends of their Big West opening doubleheader against UC Riverside (UCR) on Saturday, Mar. 23. The Tigers opened the day with a 6-1 victory before taking the afternoon contest 6-2. Pacific's victories put the team back over .500 at 17-16 on the year and 2-0 in the Big West while the Highlanders fell to 15-17 overall and 0-2 in the conference.
"I am really proud of the team for how they rebounded from a tough stretch the past few weeks," said head coach Brian Kolze. "The team played well in the field and at the plate and the players ability to focus and come up big with two-outs was really impressive. From top to bottom, the team really played well today to pick up the wins at home."
Pacific 6 - UC Riverside 1
After struggling to find their bats over the past few weeks the Tigers finally came alive at Bill Simoni Field as time in their own beds and home cooking seemed to be just what Pacific needed. Opening play against the Highlanders, the Tigers put togther eight hits and netted six runs to snap a four-game losing streak. Pacific's six runs were unanswered by UCR as the Highlanders scored in the second inning to start the game before the Tigers responded over their next three at bats.
Trailing by one in the bottom of the second, the Tigers just scratched the surface of what they would do throughout the day as Pacific posted two runs on the board behind a pair of doubles. With seniors Amy Moore and Nikki Armagost on in scoring position in front of her, freshman Nicole Zapotoczny notched Pacific its first pair of runs with a double to straight-away center.
The double for Zapotoczny was the first of two in the game as the freshman repeated the feat an inning later with an RBI double to right-center in Pacific's three-run third. Zapotoczny's double capped the inning for the Tigers after the top of the order started the scoring for Pacific. A walk and a passed ball setup the initial score as junior Megan Foglesong singled home her classmate, junior Taylor Petty, for the first run of the inning. Three batters later, junior Gabby Goyette picked up the sandwich RBI by beating out a check swing to second that scored Foglesong from third after she moved around the bases on a bunt and a deep fly ball.
Just as Zapotoczny replicated her at bats in back-to-back innings, Foglesong did the same thing in the fourth as the junior drove in her second run of the game and Pacific's final run with an RBI single to right. Foglesong's single brought home senior Megan Hom who had reached on a one-out walk before stealing second.
With the offense finding its way, junior Tori Shepard (4-4) took care of the rest in the circle for the Tigers as the third-year starter held the Highlanders to just four hits and one run over seven innings of work. Shepard's lone blemish came in the second inning when a leadoff double and a stolen base allowed the Highlanders a scoring threat they would cash in on. The only other trouble faced by the junior came in the fourth when UCR put runners at second and third with two outs, by Moore helped her pitcher out of the jam by back-picking the Highlander threat at third to end the inning. In all, Shepard allowed the four hits and one walk while stirking out two in the complete game victory.
Pacific 6 - UC Riverside 2
With the initial win out of the way the Tigers went back to work in search of the doubleheader sweep of the Highlanders in game two of the afternoon. While the individual standouts changed from the opening game, the results did not as Pacific again found the offense that had eluded them previously to net six runs on 10 hits. Leading the way in the win was senior Megan Allen who notched three hits in three trips to the plate and drove in two while hitting her first home run of the season.
Just as they did in game one, the Tigers played from behind immediately as UCR struck for a run in the first on another two-out RBI. Despite the run given up, Pacific immediately responded once again as the Tigers pushed across a pair in their half of the first to take the lead. Just as in game one, the Tigers only scratched the surface as the two runs came with the bases loaded, one on a single by senior Amy Moore and a second on an error by the Highlanders.
After missing the opportunity to really break the game open in the first, the Tigers saw the Highlanders get the one gifted run back on a Pacific error in the second inning to even the game at 2-2. Additionally, Pacific nearly saw the Highlanders retake the lead in the third, but a sac fly to left turned into a double play when UCR was caught leaving early trying to score from third.
With the fortunate mistake by the Highlanders on their side the Tigers slowly pulled away from UCR over the final four innings of play. In the third, the Tigers rallied with two outs after freshman Nicole Zapotoczny walked while back-to-back singles by sophomore Alex Steinmehl and Allen plated what would be the game-winning run. Two innings later it was Allen once again coming through with two outs as the senior went the other way with a 1-1 pitch for her 14th career home run and the Tigers' fourth run of the game.
Looking for some insurance in the sixth, the top of the order delivered as a leadoff walk to Hom led to the first run of the inning when she moved to third on a sacrifice and a ball to the right side. With Hom at third, Moore grabbed her second RBI of the contest with a single up the middle. The senior would come all the way around to score the Tigers' final run of the afternoon on a double off the wall by senior Nikki Armagost as the all-american just missed her fourth home run of the year as her shot hit just below the top of the wall in right field.
Just as her junior stablemate did in the first game of the day, sophomore Dani Bonnet (3-7) took care of business for the Tigers in the circle in game two as she allowed just one earned run on four hits in seven complete innings of work. After giving up three hits in the first two innings of play, Bonnet flew through the middle innings as she did not allow a hit over the next four innings of play until giving up a single to center in the top of the seventh inning. Just as Pacific's defense helped junior Tori Shepard in the first game, the defense was strong once again as Allen, to go along with her big day game at the plate, ended a potential Highlander rally in the seventh before it could start with a double play to get Bonnet out of an impending jam. In all, Bonnet gave up just the four hits and two runs while striking out three and walking three in the win.
The Tigers will look for the series sweep on Sunday, Mar. 24 as the two teams meet for the final tme as conference foes. Pacific and the Highlanders will square off at 12:00 pm from Bill Simoni Field.