It all started on Wednesday night when the Eagles started the late game against Oregon Tech after 10:00 p.m. The circumstances made for one of the strangest softball games Biola has play in its program history. Cheering, announcements and music were prohibited due to a city ordinance against excessive noise at that hour, and the game was played with a game clock of sorts since the lights at Freedom Field shut off automatically at 11:30 p.m.
Kimmy Triolo was just as effective as the city ordinance in keeping the Owls' bats quiet. The senior righty pitched all five innings of the shortened contest and struck out two. She also induced nine ground balls for outs and depended on the infield behind to strand Owl runners at third base in the first, second and fifth innings to keep them scoreless.
Biola scored the only run of the game in the bottom of the fourth on a sacrifice fly from Anjie Amezquita with the bases loaded. The game was originally suspended and planned to be completed on Friday, but the decision was made to call it done since it had reached the minimum of five innings.
After some much needed sleep, the Eagles returned to the diamond on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. at the Big League Dreams West Covina Fenway Park replica. Freshman Paula Damas got the start and pitched the first five and two-thirds innings against a Southern Oregon team that had scored at least six runs in each of its last four games and was the early favorite for being the strongest program at the tournament.
Damas worked through two Raider homeruns in order to hold the them to five runs, while the Eagles could not scratch anything together in their at-bats against starter Gabby Sandoval. Just when things were looking bleak for BU the game took a dramatic turn in the sixth with pinch hitter Kirstin Gutierrez starting the frame with a single down the left field line.
Following singles from the next two batters and the Eagles' first run, freshman Kayla Neff doubled to bring them home and make it a two-run game. Coming into the game in a relief capacity, Kimmy Triolo and the defense did their job by sticking a zero to the scoreboard in the next half inning to maintain the Eagles momentum.
That speed only picked up when three of the first four Biola hitters reached base safely to load the bases in the bottom of the seventh. The Eagles tied the score on a Jay Perez walk and a Selina Sherlin RBI groundout before Neff stepped to the dish again looking to end the game.
Neff made hard contact with Rosales' offering and shot it down the right-field line for her second double in as many innings. The hit scored Maranda Galindo for the walk-off 6-5 victory.
"The game against Southern Oregon has to be the highlight of the tournament for me so far: I'm really proud of the comeback because it came against a very good team," said Head Coach Lorie Coleman. "It only took one courageous act by Kirstin in the bottom of the sixth inning to spark the contagious streak of hitting which affected the whole team. Every single player on our team contributed to the wins in some way today."
Still riding the high of the walkoff win, Biola scored five runs in the first two innings of the day's second game against Embry Riddle. After the first two runs crossed home plate because of fielding errors, Sherlin grabbed a bat in the second inning and blasted an Olivia Ramos delivery to deep center field for a three-run homerun. The first five of Biola's runs were all unearned.
ERAU bounced off the mat with four of their own in the top of the third, but line drives off the sticks of Sherlin and Neff in their subsequent at-bats would tack on two more runs to give Biola its final total of seven.
"The last three games have truly been a picture of a combined team effort," said Coleman. "Our pitching staff is improving every time we play and our offense is starting to feel a rhythm. We can clean up our defense a bit, but we are definitely headed in a good direction."
The three wins to start the NAIA So. Cal Class improve Biola's record to 9-4-2. The scheduled Friday games of the tournament have been rained out. The plan is to have some competition at Big League Dreams West Covina (if possible) on Saturday and Sunday. Check back here for updates to the Eagles' upcoming schedule.