The second-seeded University of Redlands baseball team took on top-seeded Chapman University in the fourth game of the NCAA Division III West Regional Championships in Spokane, WA, on Friday. The familiar foes battled it out in their seventh meeting of the season, with this one serving as an elimination game. In a tale of multiple momentum shifts, the teams matched each other run-for-run through the first five innings. After four lead changes, the Panthers narrowly regained the lead at 6-5 in the bottom of the fifth, which was the last scoring either team would see and resulted in a heartbreaking, one-run loss for the Bulldogs.
The Panthers jumped on the board quickly in the bottom of the first with a hit-by-pitch and a home run.
Senior center fielder Kyle Kabeary (Indio, CA) single-handedly cut the deficit in half with a two-out shot over the left-field wall in the top of the second. This was the first dinger given up by Chapman starter Tyler Peck in the current campaign.
Senior pitcher Adam Stead (Rialto, CA) carried the Bulldogs' momentum into the bottom of the frame by throwing a solid, 1-2-3 inning that included two strikeouts.
The Maroon and Gray overtook the lead in the next inning on one hit and one Panther miscue. After giving up back-to-back walks, the Chapman defense sailed a ground ball past first base, allowing senior third baseman Brendan Gardiner (Mission Viejo, CA) to score all the way from second. With runners on the corners, senior right fielder Jordan Babbitt (Highland, CA) singled through the right side to plate another run. With two on, two straight base-on-balls resulted in Redlands' third and final run of that inning for a 4-2 score.
Unfortunately, Chapman matched those two runs on three hits in the bottom of that frame to tie the game at four apiece. Thankfully, senior catcher Rainier Aguilar (San Bernardino, CA) picked off the would-be base stealer at second to halt the Panthers' scoring spurt.
Senior second baseman Will Hall (Seattle, WA) led off the fourth with a hit-by-pitch and added to his record-breaking season with his 34th stolen base. Hall touched home on a pair of groundouts to give Redlands the 5-4 advantage heading into the bottom of the fourth.
Stead recorded a quick out before his defense executed a flawless double play to get back on offense.
Chapman went to its bullpen after junior shortstop Aaron Singh's (Anaheim, CA) leadoff double in the fifth. The Panthers' reliever got the best of Redlands, as the Bulldogs could not bring Singh all the way around.
After a Panther two-run home run, a walk, and an out, the Bulldogs also looked to their bullpen in first-year hurler Chris Fousek Jr. (San Diego, CA). The Panthers hit a screamer back up the middle that nicked Fousek for two runners on. Thankfully, junior first baseman Brendan Moore (Murrieta, CA) was in the right position to snag the next Chapman batter's hard line drive and then step on first for the unassisted double play.
Fousek was money on the mound, putting trust in his defense to get under the fly balls and roll up the ground balls.
Redlands' best chance to score came in the eighth inning when Kabeary led off with a two-strike single to right center and advanced to second on a passed ball. Hall subsequently laced a single up the middle, which allowed Kabeary to touch third and head to tie the game, but a tough call by the umpire solidified the first out. Hall also reached third but Redlands couldn't spark any more offense to get him home.
Fousek continued to keep his team in the game by dealing strikes and working down for the ground ball.
Sadly, Redlands ran out of time to execute the comeback and came up just short in a heartbreaking, 5-6 loss to exit the double-elimination tournament.
Babbitt went 3-for-5 with an RBI, while Kabeary and Hall combined for four hits, two RBI, and two runs scored.
Although the 2018 campaign may be over, the Bulldog baseball team has plenty to celebrate in a record-breaking, 33-13 season that saw eight All-Conference players, including the Athlete and Pitcher of the Year.