Under the direction of fourth-year Head Coach Aaron Holley, the University of Redlands baseball team orchestrated an incredibly successful campaign that included exciting wins, plenty of accolades, and undeniable upward momentum as a high-caliber program. While living out the team's motto of "Send It Brother", the Maroon and Gray held nothing back en route to an overall record of 27-16 and a 16-8 mark in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC). After tying for second in the regular season, the squad battled through the SCIAC Postseason Tournament for an impressive run that culminated in a quality appearance during the final game. Overall, Redlands tallied an incredible seven All-SCIAC individuals, a trio of All-West Region honorees, two All-America nods, and a Gold Glove award in a stellar season.
After returning from Arizona, the Bulldogs unfortunately fell into a bit of a slump and dropped their next four games.
But the team jumped back into the win column with a huge SCIAC sweep over the Whittier College Poets in late February. In game one, Minjarez pitched a one-run, complete-game win while recording his first of many 10-plus strikeout games. Senior hurler John Keane (Clayton, CA) took the hill for game three and cruised through the first inning by fanning two of the three Whittier batters. Keane tossed six strong innings by striking out five total. Junior right-fielder Kyle Kabeary (Indio, CA) went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI, while freshman first baseman Andrew Renteria (Van Nuys, CA) went 1-for-3 with four RBI. But the storied hero of the whole series was third baseman Brendan Gardiner (Mission Viejo, CA), who batted .700 with three home runs, recorded six RBI, and scored four runs.
Senior pitcher Michael Collins (Upland, CA) was tabbed the starter in the opening game against Southern Vermont College on March 18. After giving up one run in the first inning, he settled down to retire 10 of the next 11 batters while only allowing one hit and striking out three. Offensively, sophomore shortstop Aaron Singh (Anaheim, CA) launched a home run to left field for the Bulldogs' early lead en route to an 8-6 victory. In game two, Redlands put on a hitting clinic, as the home team knocked in 12 runs over the first two innings. In the midst of the scoring, junior designated hitter Joey Warner (Indio, CA) sent a triple along the right-field line for two RBI.
Redlands completed its undefeated showing over the Sagehens in a dominating doubleheader by scores of 13-3 and 14-0. Wallau saved his best for last with a 4-for-4 performance that included a double, three RBI, and four runs scored. With this series sweep, the Bulldogs jumped up the standings to secure one of the top four spots in the SCIAC Postseason Tournament.
As the three-seed, the Bulldogs faced Chapman in the first round of the tournament at Hart Park in Orange. After the teams traded runs through eight solid innings, the score remained knotted at four-all, which led to an exciting final stanza. With one out in the top of the ninth, Gardiner laced a single through the right side. Singh subsequently laid down the successful sacrifice bunt to move him over to second before Gardiner advanced to third on a passed ball. With two outs, Hall struck out on a passed ball, but Gardiner snuck in from third while Hall was safe at first to put the Maroon and Gray back on top at 5-4. With Minjarez still going strong, he headed to the mound to pitch the ninth. He gave up a single but then sat the next two batters. With one out to go and a Panther runner on second, Chapman sent a single to shallow center field. But Conci fielded it perfectly and threw a strike all the way to Aguilar, who tagged the would-be tying run for a close play at the plate for the third out and the 5-4 Bulldog victory.
Immediately following the loss, Redlands quickly regrouped to square off against Chapman in an elimination game of the tournament. After snagging a close 5-4 win over the Panthers the day before, the Bulldogs broke out the bats to muscle 19 hits in a dominating 17-8 victory. With the score knotted at eight apiece, Conci led off the bottom of the sixth with a massive home run for Redlands' 9-8 advantage. After two singles, runners sat on first and third for Gardiner, who reached on an unsuccessful fielder's choice for an RBI. The Bulldogs put up one run in the seventh on a walk, a stolen base, a hit-by-pitch, and a wild pitch, but they weren't done yet. With two outs and the bases loaded, Gardiner knocked a monster grand slam to right field to give Redlands a 15-8 lead. The Maroon and Gray notched two more runs in the eighth to eventually win in monumental fashion. Conci ended the game by going 5-for-5 and scoring four runs, while Scalisi went 3-for-6 with three RBI. Gardiner registered a 2-for-5 showing with six RBI.
The team faced another opportunity against Cal Lutheran in the final of the SCIAC Postseason Tournament in Thousand Oaks. Amidst a display of grit and tenacity by both teams, the Bulldogs rallied to tie it up but ultimately fell in a tight a 2-3 decision.
The Bulldogs' success kept rolling through the postseason, as Minjarez was named the SCIAC Pitcher of the Year, as Aguilar, Collins, Singh, Scalisi, Keane, and Samson each received All-Conference nods.
But the accolades didn't stop there. Minjarez, Aguilar, and Singh represented Redlands on the D3baseball.com and American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)/Rawlings all-region lists. In addition to earning a spot on each of the first teams, Minjarez was tabbed the D3baseball.com West Region Pitcher of the Year and ABCA/Rawlings West Region Pitcher of the Year. Aguilar grabbed a spot on each entity's second team, while Singh was named to the third teams.
Furthermore, Minjarez and Aguilar were selected to the D3baseball.com All-America squad. Minjarez was named to the Second Team, while Aguilar received an honorable mention. Immediately following that accolade, Minjarez was also named to the ABCA/Rawlings All-America Third Team to cap off his stellar third season with the Maroon and Gray.
Following this incredible season, the Bulldog baseball team has plenty to celebrate but eagerly looks forward to seeing what the future holds. Although replacing the veteran contributors is never an easy task, Redlands strives to build on their success, as the returning crew welcomes the chance to accelerate the program's upward climb in the SCIAC and beyond.