After defeating No. 3-seeded Chapman University on Friday and top-seeded University of La Verne on Saturday in the first two days of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Postseason Championship Tournament, the Bulldogs retuned to Ben Hines Field in La Verne for the title game on Sunday. Redlands went undefeated in the tournament up until this point. The Bulldogs fell in game one, 2-5, forcing a seventh game in the double-elimination tournament. The Maroon and Gray held a 10-1 lead through six innings and, in an unfortunate turn of events, Chapman broke out the bats and ultimately handed Redlands a tough, 12-20 loss.
Senior pitcher Noah Jones (San Bernardino, CA) was handed the pearl for game one. Jones and Chapman's pitcher cruised through both line-ups in the first two innings.
Although the Panthers tacked on one run in the top of the third, the Bulldogs came right back with a two-spot in the bottom of that inning. After two quick outs, senior left fielder Nick Ono (Yorba Linda, CA) reached on a base-on-balls and senior second baseman Will Hall (Seattle, WA) reached on a single. Senior third baseman Brendan Gardiner (Mission Viejo, CA) subsequently roped a double to deep right field to plate both runners and take the lead at 2-1.
However, Chapman matched the two runs in the very next half inning and put Redlands in a 2-3 hole headed into the bottom of the fourth.
Although Jones executed a nice, spin pickoff move to second base to get Chapman's leadoff runner, the Panthers added two more in the seventh.
Senior right fielder Jordan Babbitt (Highland, CA) did all he could from the plate by knocking a double in both the seventh and the ninth innings. Although the Bulldogs gained base runners in the final innings, they could not pull the trigger to bring them all the way around and ultimately fell to Chapman in a tough, 2-5 loss, forcing another game.
First-year pitcher Chris Fousek Jr. (San Diego, CA) was selected as the starting pitcher in the nightcap.
Both teams scored one run in the first inning for a quick 1-1 tie. Redlands' run came off a Gardiner single.
Fast-forward to the fourth inning, Fousek pitched a nice 1-2-3 frame. His offense backed his efforts with four runs on four hits. After a lead-off walk and wild pitch for the Bulldogs, Ono laced a single up the middle for an RBI. A few batters later, Gardiner and junior shortstop Aaron Singh (Anaheim, CA) knocked back-to-back, bases-loaded singles to the eight-spot, combining for three more RBI.
Fousek continued to deal, throwing another, three-up, three-down inning to hold a 5-1 lead through four innings.
The Maroon and Gray added to its firepower in the fifth, as junior first baseman Brendan Moore (Murrieta, CA) and Singh laced back-to-back singles for two on and no outs. Babbitt then faked a bunt, reared back, and nailed a triple down the right-field line for a 7-1 advantage. After an out, senior center fielder Kyle Kabeary (Indio, CA) sent a base hit through the 5-6 hole to plate Babbitt. After a wild pitch and an out, Kabeary remained on second with senior second baseman Will Hall (Seattle, WA) up at the dish. Hall smoked a single to left field for the fourth and final run of the inning.
Babbitt also knocked a two-out double in the sixth and was sent home on sophomore Andrew Renteria's (Van Nuys, CA) single for a 10-1 Bulldog advantage.
In an extremely unfortunate turn of events, the Panthers tied the game up at 10-apiece on six hits in the seventh. Despite multiple pitching changes for Redlands, Chapman's bats stayed hot over the next two innings as well, resulting in a 20-10 lead headed to the bottom of the ninth.
With time running out, the Bulldogs attempted the comeback in the ninth. Ono led off on a free pass and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Hall shot a single up the middle that scored Ono. After an error, two outs, and Hall on third, Singh sent a base knock to left to chip away at the deficit.
Unfortunately, that would be all the runs Redlands could muster, heartbreakingly falling by a final score of 12-20.
After finishing tied-for-first in the conference and advancing to the SCIAC Postseason Tournament for the fourth-consecutive season, Redlands (33-11, 19-5 SCIAC) now holds out hope for a possible at-large bid to the NCAA Championships.