The No. 10/12 University of Redlands baseball team headed to the University of La Verne to take on the Leopards in game four of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Postseason Tournament. Three Bulldogs knocked three hits each en route to a 15-hit showing to overwhelm the Leopards by a large, 10-3 margin.
Although playing at La Verne, Redlands served as the home team for game four. With a "score early and often" mentality, the Maroon and Gray jumped on the board in the bottom of the first inning on two hits. With two runners on, junior first baseman Brendan Moore (Murrieta, CA) laced a single to left center to put his team ahead, 2-0, after one.
The SCIAC Pitcher of the Year Adam Stead (Rialto, CA) and the Leopard starting pitcher showed great command from the hill, quickly cruising through the second and third innings.
Stead got in a little bit of a jam in the top of the fourth with two runners on and no outs. The Leopards added a run on a Redlands miscue but retired the runner on second, who was caught in a pickle for the first out. Now with runners on first and third, on the first pitch to the subsequent batter, senior catcher Rainier Aguilar (San Bernardino, CA) caught La Verne's leadoff runner sleeping for a huge, 2-5 pickoff play for the second out. Redlands' defense rolled up the third out to escape an inning that could have had a very different outcome.
Although the Bulldogs had the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth, they couldn't muster the hits to push the runners all the way around. Stead returned to the mound with an impressive six-pitch, 1-2-3 inning to put his team back on offense quickly.
Redlands did just that by tacking on four more runs over the next two innings. Senior second baseman Will Hall (Seattle, WA) led off the fifth with a double to left and a subsequent sacrifice bunt moved him over to third. Aguilar followed suit with a two-bagger to left that plated Hall. The Bulldogs continued to pound left field, as Moore sent a deep single to the seven-spot that allowed Aguilar to touch home from second.
Redlands' offense stayed hot, as senior center fielder Kyle Kabeary (Indio, CA) smacked a triple to center to lead off the sixth. Kabeary snuck in for the score on the following squeeze-play off a sacrifice bunt from senior left fielder Nick Ono (Yorba Linda, CA). Hall continued the hit parade with another double that was followed by senior third baseman Brendan Gardiner's (Mission Viejo, CA) single that brought Hall all the way home for a 6-1 Bulldog lead after six innings.
However, the Leopards put up two runs on two hits in the top of the seventh to cut the deficit to 3-6.
Stead executed another solid start for the Bulldogs, striking out five in seven complete innings. First-year hurler Chris Fousek Jr. (San Diego, CA) lifted Stead in the eighth and tossed a nice, three up, three down inning with two fly-outs and a groundout.
The Bulldogs busted the game wide open by putting up four runs on five straight hits in the bottom of the eighth. Senior right fielder Jordan Babbitt (Highland, CA) and Ono roped back-to-back singles for two runners on and Hall up to bat. Hall impressively dinged his third double of the game, scoring pinch runner Jon Pacheco (Moreno Valley, CA). Gardiner sent Ono home on his base knock and then swiped second base. Aguilar rounded out the offensive outburst with a two-RBI double to left center.
First-year pitcher Justin Yang (Fountain Valley, CA) was called in to close out the top of the ninth. Yang retired the first out but the next two batters reached on rare errors by the Bulldogs. With runners on second and third, Gardiner rolled up the La Verne batter's ground ball and stepped on third for the force-out and final out of the game to secure the huge, 10-3 victory.
Hall, Aguilar, and Moore combined for nine hits and seven RBI, while Gardiner reset the all-time Redlands record for single-season hits with 67 in his 2-for-3 showing in today's game.
With today's win, Redlands (33-9, 19-5 SCIAC) faces the winner of game five, either La Verne or Chapman, in game six, which is scheduled for Sunday, May 6. First pitch is set for 11 a.m. at Ben Hines Field in La Verne.