The No. 2-seeded University of Redlands baseball team took on fifth-seeded University of Texas–Dallas in the second game of Thursday's action at the NCAA Division III West Regional Championships in Spokane, WA. Amidst a fierce pitchers' duel, the Bulldogs scored one in the bottom of the first and stayed ahead until the top of the ninth, when the Comets tied things up. UTD tacked on two more in the top of the 10th, resulting in the Maroon and Gary's difficult 1-3 loss.
Senior pitcher Felix Minjarez (Riverside, CA) started the game off in a big way by retiring the first batter looking. He then threw a pop-out and a groundout to quickly put his team back on offense.
Senior second baseman Will Hall (Seattle, WA) backed his pitcher with a leadoff double in the bottom of the inning. Two, hard-hit ground balls to shortstop scored Hall for Redlands' early, 1-0 lead.
The Redlands defense turned a double play and got under every fly ball to execute back-to-back, three-up, three-down innings in the second and the third. With speed and agility, senior left fielder Nick Ono (Yorba Linda, CA) tracked down a foul ball between the bullpen and the stands to make an incredible, diving catch for the last out of the third frame.
Offensively, Redlands earned base runners in three-consecutive innings but couldn't lace together enough hits to bring them all the way around.
The pitchers' duel continued, as Minjarez bookended the bottom of the fifth with two punch-outs and added another in the sixth.
Nonetheless, in the top of the ninth, the Comets executed a two-out rally to tie the game at one. With UT-Dallas runners on second and third, senior catcher Rainier Aguilar (San Bernardino, CA) fired down to senior third baseman Brendan Gardiner (Mission Viejo, CA) to surprise the lead runner for the pickoff and the third out in a clutch play.
With the momentum seemingly shifted back to Redlands, senior right fielder Jordan Babbitt (Highland, CA) knocked a two-base hit down the right-field line to lead off the bottom of the ninth. However, the offensive spurt stopped there and the teams headed into the 10th.
First-year pitcher Justin Yang (Fountain Valley, CA) lifted Minjarez, who pitched a gem of a game as the starter. But UT-Dallas's offense got hot at the right time and scored two runs on four hits to take the lead for the first time in the game.
Hall and junior first baseman Brendan Moore (Murrieta, CA) singled in the bottom of the 10th but the runners were stranded again, leaving the Bulldogs with a sour 1-3 loss in their first NCAA appearance since 2011.
Aguilar and Moore did all they could at the plate, with each going 3-for-5 at the plate. Aguilar's two doubles bring his season total to 22, which resets the Bulldogs' record previously owned by Jason Henning.
Minjarez only faced 32 batters in nine innings and struck out five in this awesome outing.
The Bulldogs (33-12) now face top-seeded Chapman University, which was upset by sixth-seeded Willamette University (OR) in today's earlier contest. The familiar foes square off on Friday, May 18, in an elimination game at 11 a.m.