April 29, 2012

CMS Holds off Redlands in SCIAC Softball Postseason Tournament Finale

The second-seeded Athenas of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps ran the table during the 2012 Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Postseason Tournament, finishing the two-day event with a 2-0 victory over the regular-season champions from the University of Redlands to earn the automatic berth to the NCAA Championships. 

Playing as the home team, CMS nabbed an early lead in the bottom of the first when senior Emily Lopez plated junior Harmony Palmer on a perfectly placed sacrifice bunt.  Palmer led off the stanza with a double to left center. 

The Athenas collected an insurance run in the fourth frame, capitalizing on a defensive miscue and a double to right field by Lopez

Redlands had its chances in the fifth frame, loading the bases with two outs and sophomore outfielder Amanda Lievanos (Anaheim, CA) at the plate. 

But freshman Hayley Schultz remained steady on the mound, forcing her opponent into a ground-out to end the Bulldogs' chances of another comeback.  Schultz finished with her third win of the tournament, scattering six hits and striking out five in Saturday's performance.

CMS (28-13) now heads to the NCAA Championships for the fourth time in school history.

The Maroon and Gray advanced to the championship game on a crazy come-from-behind win over Whittier College (24-17) in the day's first outing. 

The Poets exploded for four runs in the first inning, putting Redlands in a sizeable hole from the get-go.  Senior Nikki Mendoza led off with a triple to initiate her 5-for-6 effort while setting up senior Denisse Martinez's RBI-single.  The Bulldogs managed to throw out would-be scorers on two occasions but sophomore Jordan Learn came through for the Poets, firing off a base-clearing double to left center.

Down but not out, the Bulldogs chipped away at the deficit, eventually tying it up in the fifth frame. 

After a dropped foul ball kept her alive, senior first baseman Rikki Skates (Redlands, CA) homered in the fourth to initiate the Maroon and Gray's comeback.

The Bulldogs then made the most of a pair of walks to lead off the game-changing fifth inning, as they quickly loaded the bases on a perfectly executed bunt by sophomore outfielder Janelle Carrasco (Whittier, CA).  Junior outfielder Sarah Beeman (Corona, CA) stepped up with a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring senior third baseman Molly Duran (Corona, CA).  In addition, the squad benefitted from heads-up base-running on a tight single to third base, which pushed across junior second baseman Arlene Martinez (Corona, CA) and Carrasco, as the Poets attempted to throw out the respective runners at both corners. 

Redlands finally took its first lead of the game in the bottom of the sixth when Duran knocked one out of the park for her second home run of the season.

Refusing to go away, Whittier answered on a sacrifice fly by freshman Xzandra Miranda-Castro.  She plated pinch runner junior Cindy Loza, who stepped in for Martinez after a hit-by-pitch.

The Bulldogs' dramatic comeback was complete when Lievanos connected on a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th inning, sending Redlands into a short celebration before heading into the next game.

Uphold went the distance in the extended contest, recording her 19th win of the season.  She allowed 12 hits and five runs while striking out four in 10 innings.

Redlands (31-11) now awaits the NCAA's announcement on May 7, hoping for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.