The Athenas were one out away from a first ever sweep of NAIA pre-season #22 ranked Azusa Pacific when a two run homer in the top of the seventh deflated their momentum, leaving them with a 2 run deficit going into the bottom of the seventh that proved too much to overcome.
Though disappointed with letting Game 2 slip through their fingers, the squad showed signs of things to come in the field, in the circle, at the plate and on the basepaths. It is clearly going to be another exciting season for CMS Softball.
Starting right where she left off in 2010, sophomore Harmony Palmer (Oceanside) went 3 for 8, driving in 4 of the Athenas 5 runs on the day and crushing her first home run of the season. She was of equal impact defensively playing flawless defense at third, converting on 6 assists and 2 put-outs. Described by many as one of the most exciting ballplayers they've ever watched play, the fun-loving, high energy Palmer brings an incredible focus to her play on both sides of the ball.
Earning a coveted First Team All-American award, SCIAC Player of the Year and setting five single season hitting records in 2010 during her freshman campaign, Palmer is eager to establish her consistent excellence by performing at this level again in 2011. By the looks of her play on Saturday, she appears to be well on the way to doing just that.
Another top performer Saturday was Gizelle Pera (SR, Los Angeles). The four year right fielder went 4 for 6, with a walk, a run scored, and 4 stolen bases for a .750 On Base % on the day. Pera's knack for making things happen and her fiery competitiveness give the Athenas a run scoring threat anytime she appears in the line-up. In top physical form for her final campaign, Pera brings speed, power and focus that consistently produce strong results.
Defensively, the Athenas pitching staff also got off to a great start. In game 1, Emma Friedenberg (JR, Danville) threw a complete game, allowing only 4 hits and 2 runs while striking out two and giving up only one walk in 27 batters faced. The third year letter winner was in complete command of the game from her first pitch, working efficiently and handling the Cougars 3 up - 3 down in 4 of her 7 innings pitched.
In game 2, teammate Rebecca Gularte (JR, Sunnyvale) took the reins and threw an equally strong game allowing 3 hits and 1 run while striking out three and walking one in 19 batters faced over 5 2/3 innings. Gularte, too, was hitting her spots stymieing the Cougars 3 up - 3 down in 4 innings. In fact, Gularte gave up one solo shot over the left field fence and otherwise threw a two hitter over 5 2/3 innings.
Also of note, the Athenas notched 9 stolen bases on the day scattered among five different players. The infield defense was nearly flawless, with Emily Lopez (JR, Fresno) and Palmer playing error free on the left side while accounting for 16 assists and 4 putouts. Augmenting their strong play was newcomer Olivia Jacobs (FR, Shoreline, WA) who made a big splash in her college debut at first base executing her position without a hitch and making several memorable plays during the afternoon.
The Athenas take the field again Saturday, February 5th hosting regional rival Chapman University. Game times are 12 and 2pm.