Small Colleges / Alan Drooz : Azusa Pacific Women Look Like Murderers’ Row of Softball

First-year teams usually take their lumps, but Azusa Pacific University’s women’s softball squad isn’t following the script.

In their first season, under a coach with no coaching experience, the Lady Cougars had run up an 8-1 record going into Tuesday’s game against The Master’s College, and had outscored opponents, 52-4. They will make their toughest trip of the season this weekend, playing a doubleheader Friday against St. Mary’s, the defending NAIA District III champion, and a nonleague doubleheader Saturday at Santa Clara.

“We would’ve been happy to be .500,” said Gary Pine, Azusa Pacific athletic department publicist. “With a new team we just didn’t know what to expect. The coach comes in every day and says, ‘Gee, we won.’ ”

Coach Laura Wood, originally an assistant to Rich Melina, took over the team two weeks before the season started when Melina resigned. She played for three years at Washington State but had no coaching experience. Her assistant is Diane Grove, a senior at the school.


The Lady Cougars have no seniors and seven freshmen, but Wood has been fortunate to come up with two standout pitchers--freshmen Sarah Lyons, who has a 4-1 record, and Michelle Hodges, who is 4-0. They rank 1-2 in District III earned-run averages--Lyons at 0.20, Hodges at 0.24. They have thrown five shutouts.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Arthur and Joan Wittenbraker both are batting .429 to lead the offense.

The Lady Cougars are 2-1 in the five-team District III race, which Cal Lutheran leads. St. Mary’s is 6-10 but has played Division I and Division II competition. The other two are probably the favorites, but Wood is gaining confidence in her young team.

“We’re strong at every position, and if we can continue to play consistently, then we’ll be in the running for a possible district title,” she said.


Cal Lutheran’s softball team has a hot pitching-hitting combination in junior Kim Peppi and senior Becky Wolfe, who have led the Regals to a 13-3 record, their best start. The record includes a 12-game winning streak.

Peppi, who bats third and did the majority of the pitching last year, leads the team with a .318 batting average and is 8-1 with four shutouts. The only loss was in extra-inning relief to St. Mary’s.

Coach Carey Snyder decided to alternate the two in the pitching rotation this season and Wolfe, who is also cleanup batter, has responded with a 5-2 record, four shutouts and a 1.34 earned-run average. The two losses were to Division II Cal State Northridge and Cal State Bakersfield.

The Regals will play Azusa Pacific for the first time April 10.


The Azusa Pacific men’s baseball team had trouble coping with its early schedule but caught fire when NAIA District III play began. The Cougars were 3-15 in nondistrict games against a variety of Division I and Division II programs and committed 45 errors in their first 12 games while opponents scored 12 or more runs eight times.

They’re in first place in the district, though, with a 5-1 record and have made seven errors in the last six games. Tim Pawley, a transfer from USC, has been the hot hitter. Pawley is batting .400 with 19 runs batted in for the last 11 games. Jim Collins is batting .450 over eight games, and David Titchenal has hit .435 for the last six games. The team is batting .339 with 60 runs in its last eight games.

The Cougars started out in similar slow fashion in five of the last six years but three times ended up winning the district title and advancing to the NAIA World Series.

All-Americans: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo junior forward Sean Chambers has been named to the National Assn. of Basketball Coaches Division II All-American third team. Chambers, co-Player of the Year in the California Collegiate Athletic Assn., is the only West Coast player on the NABC team.


Biola’s Becky Miller was named to the NAIA All-American second-team, making her an eight-time All-American. She has been first or second-team in volleyball and basketball for four years, an NAIA record. Biola’s Joseph Hutt got honorable mention on the NAIA men’s team.

Ron Hunt revisited? The best place to find shortstop Dave Poirier of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in the box score is next to HBP. The junior has been hit by pitches a school-record nine times in 11 games, giving him an on-base percentage over .400 despite a .241 batting average.

Small College Notes

Basketball Coach Ernie Wheeler of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was named NABC West District Coach of the Year. He won similar honors in 1967 and 1981. . . . Cal State Bakersfield junior Ron Lee recorded the top Division II high jump, 7-3 3/4, at Cal Poly Pomona. That’s his personal best and a school record. . . . Runner Sharon Hanson of Cal Poly SLO set a CCAA record in the 400-meter hurdles at 59.6. . . . Claremont-Mudd senior Carl Giles has qualified for the Division III national meet with a school-record hammer throw of 179-5. . . . Cal Poly SLO gymnasts Paige Allan and Jana Lehman tied for the championship on uneven bars in the Division II West Regional but failed to qualify for the national meet by .05 of a point. Each received 8.95. Seattle Pacific won the gymnastics regional title and Seattle star Barbara Elliott won the all-around title. . . . Stan Oporski, Cal State Los Angeles track standout and a two-time Polish triple-jump champion, tried the long jump and won a meet with a leap of 24-10, fifth-best in school history. He also triple-jumped 52-5 1/2, three inches short of his school record. . . . Biola baseball player Carl Johnson is batting .481 and is coming off a week in which he pitched in two victories and went 12 for 25. . . . All-American softball pitcher Rhonda Wheatley of Cal Poly Pomona struck out 17 batters against Fresno Sate, then pitched a one-hitter the next day against U.S. International. . . . Azusa Pacific track All-American Mike Manard set a school record in the hammer throw with a 231-4 effort at UCLA. In the same meet Christian Okoye threw the hammer a personal best 219-7 for a Nigerian record, then won the discus event with 195-11.