Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Royals Finish First-Ever Season Sweep Of San Diego Christian

Recap, photo courtesy of Hope International University
FULLERTON, CA – Hope International played host for San Diego Christian on Tuesday, Apr. 10, in the series finale at Bastanchury Park. The Royals (37-5, 11-3 GSAC) used a pair of run-rule victories – a 14-1 win in game one and an 11-2 win in game two – to complete the season sweep of SDC (10-24, 0-12 GSAC).

In between games one and two of the doubleheader, the NAIA office released the latest Coaches' Top 25 poll. After compiling a 34-4 record coming into the week, the Royals now find themselves ranked No. 6 in the NAIA. The Top 10 ranking is the Royals' best in program history and is another first added to an ever-growing list of accolades this season for the Royals' softball program.

"We're going to enjoy [the best ranking], but we can't stop," Coach Dennis Blas said after the doubleheader. "We'll live in the moment a little bit, but you still have to play the games. Our goal from the beginning of the year has been to get to the [NAIA] playoffs and I think people around the country are starting to recognize what we're about… I'm proud of the effort our girls have put in this season."

Taylor Pierce and Jamie Ponce got the wins in the circle for HIU after combining to pitch nine innings of seven-hit, three-run softball. None of the runs allowed to SDC were earned. Between the two starters and a relief appearance from Taylor Asio, HIU held the Hawks to a .179 batting average on the day and did not allow an extra-base hit.

The Royals fell behind early in game one after an error extended the first inning and brought home a runner from third. SDC would not score after that, however, as the Royals put 14 unanswered runs on the board in the win. Justice Walker drove in two runs in the second to take the lead, and the Royals exploded for nine more in the third with four home runs in the inning.

Kaitlyn Lanksbury cleared the bases with a three-RBI blast, Bree Maikai hit her first homer in a Royals uniform for two RBI, Walker produced a solo shot, and Ponce lifted her second career homer out in left field for three more RBI and a 12-1 lead. A two-RBI double from Cynthia Barba in the fourth capped the unanswered offense for the 14-1 final.

Game two for HIU did not feature as many big hits, but the Royals' bats would produce 10 singles and a double. HIU hitters also showed good patience by drawing six walks in game two for extra baserunners.

The Hawks took another 1-0 lead in the first inning of game two after back-to-back errors from the Royals' middle infield allowed an unearned run to score, but HIU had a seven-run inning to answer in the bottom half of the frame. The first six HIU batters all reached base safely and the Royals would send 12 players to the plate in the first inning alone, finishing the frame with a 7-1 lead.

The Hawks would get one back in the second to make it 7-2 but did not score again after that point. HIU tacked on three more in the third with walks, singles, and a sacrifice fly, and capped the game with a single tally in the fourth. An Alexis Sargent double in that inning was cashed in for the 11-2 lead after a Karen Creech single brought her around from second to score.

"It's taken three years for our program to get to this point, but I'm really proud of our kids for buying in," Coach Blas said after the sweep. "We work on [hitting] everyday, we can hit a little bit as a team, and I'm really proud of our kids for doing what they're doing this season…We need to go and play the way that we know we can this weekend [against Ottawa and Arizona Christian] if we want to go 4-0 on that road trip."

HIU travels to face Ottawa (AZ) on Friday, Apr. 12, and will wrap up a season series against Arizona Christian on Saturday, Apr. 13, to finish off a grueling stretch of 10 games in six days. Links to live stats and video will be available from

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