The University of Redlands softball team celebrated Senior Day at the Field of Dreams on Sunday afternoon with a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) doubleheader against the Occidental College Tigers. Despite an early lead, the Bulldogs came up short in the opener, 2-7, but rallied back in the seventh and eighth innings of the nightcap to pull out an exciting 4-3 win.
After recognizing seniors Marissa Romero (Manteca, CA), Summer Smith (Redlands, CA), Casey Maltz (Palo Alto, CA), and Amanda Ang (Santa Cruz, CA), the Bulldogs went to work on the diamond for the first game against the Tigers. Maltz took to the circle for the Maroon and Gray and pitched a gem through three innings by allowing just one hit and no runs.
The Bulldog offense provided Maltz with a nice two-run lead in the second inning on three effective hits. After junior second baseman Shannon Skrzynski (Pomona, CA) singled through the left side to lead off the frame, sophomore designated player Mika Imoto (Vista, CA) moved her over on a hit up the middle. Junior catcher Olivia Vierra (Burlingame, CA) laid down a perfect bunt to move the runners to second and third just in time for freshman first baseman Nicole Stanzione (San Marcos, CA), who crushed a single down the right-field line for two runs.
After Maltz was lifted in the fourth, the Tigers eagerly responded by putting up crooked numbers in two of the next three frames. Unfortunately, Redlands remained in the hole through the remainder of the game en route to the 2-7 loss.
During the second contest, the Tigers scored twice in the top of the first inning and then plated one more in the third, forcing the Maroon and Gray to work from behind. Nonetheless, Redlands refused to go away.
After Imoto settled into a nice rhythm in the circle, the Bulldog bats fought to create some chemistry at the plate. In the bottom of the fifth, Redlands' persistence paid off. Stanzione doubled to lead off the frame. After sophomore Hayley Romo (Port Orchard, WA) stepped in as a pinch runner, sophomore right fielder Jennifer Ng (Pleasanton, CA) uncorked a laser of a single through the left side to move her over to third. With a runner in scoring position, Romero answered the call by hitting a chopper to third base, which allowed Romo to sprint home for the score.
Still trailing 1-3, the Bulldogs worked to put two runners on in the bottom of the sixth, with Vierra and junior shortstop Ursyla Baumgarten (Penngrove, CA) reaching on a single and a fielder's choice, respectively. Stanzione provided a hopeful chance for the Maroon and Gray by crushing a high, drifting ball to deep, right center, but the Oxy right-fielder snagged the ball for the out with an impressive play.
Nonetheless, the momentum stayed with the home team, which orchestrated a two-run showing in the bottom of the seventh. While the Tigers went through multiple pitching changes, the Bulldogs kept poised for the comeback. After Romero drew the walk and Ang reached on a fielder's choice due to a runner's interference call, Smith came up clutch by launching a high blast to shallow right center, which stunned the Oxy outfielders due to the wicked sun. As the ball dropped, Romero touched home before Ang scored on a misfired throw from the defense.
With the score knotted at three apiece, the game headed into the eighth inning. Following two outs and an error, the Bulldogs denied a Tiger run when Ang grabbed an out in deep, center field to set up the dramatic comeback in the bottom half of the frame.
After a routine play that ended in an error by the Tiger defense, Vierra and Stanzione did their jobs to move Baumgarten over on a sacrifice bunt and a long fly-out. With two outs, Ng drew the walk but the final ball came on a wild pitch, which allowed Baumgarten to sneak in for the game-winning run.
Imoto collected the victory from the circle after throwing all eight innings.
Redlands (14-22, 10-14 SCIAC) competes at home again on Friday, April 28, when it hosts Chapman University in an important 2 p.m. conference doubleheader at the Field of Dreams.