With energy and determination, the University of Redlands softball team punched its ticket to the NCAA Division III Championships by defeating Chapman University, 6-2, in Sunday's final of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Postseason Tournament at the Softball Field of Dreams.
Playing as the visiting team, the Bulldogs set the tone for the game in the top of the first inning. With one out, sophomore centerfielder Kalyn Kershner (Ewa Beach, HI) uncorked a home run over the left-field fence to send senior left fielder Tsianina Flores (Corona, CA) and first-year second baseman/shortstop Collette Allen (Sierra Madre, CA) across the plate for the 3-0 lead.
The game moved right along in the subsequent few innings, with each pitcher taking care of business from the circle. For Redlands, senior pitcher Danielle Stallings (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA) faced only 11 batters in three frames for an excellent start to the contest.
In the top of the fourth, the Bulldogs stretched their lead to four, when sophomore third baseman Madison Alves (Kingsburg, CA) found an opening in the grass to plate sophomore first baseman Madeline Gonzalez (Colton, CA), who blasted a two-out double in the previous at-bat.
Redlands tacked on a pair of runs in the top of the sixth by making the most of opportunity. Following a Panther miscue and a hit-by-pitch, Gonzalez loaded the bases on a single to right field. Two batters later, Redlands pushed two across on junior right fielder Kayla Rivas' (Whittier, CA) hit up the middle that was mishandled by the defense.
However, the momentum seemed to switch in the bottom half of the frame, as Chapman orchestrated a little offensive momentum that began with a home run. With two outs and two on, the Panthers also found space on the left-field line to score another run to make it a 6-2 game.
After 5.2 innings of solid work, Stallings was lifted by first-year pitcher Ali Borden (Santa Barbara, CA), who forced the subsequent batter into a lineout to deny the Panthers' rally.
Borden impressed in the final inning by retiring the side in order, resulting in the Bulldogs' tournament championship win.
Overall, Kershner tallied one hit, one run scored, and three RBI, while Gonzalez went 2-for-3 at the plate with two runs scored.
Upon conclusion of the game, junior shortstop Natalie Horton (Palmdale, CA) was named the Tournament MVP for her contributions to the Bulldogs' successful weekend. In three games, she went 5-for-11 at the plate for a batting average of .455, including a double, triple, home run, and four RBI. Her slugging percentage was 1.000 and she never struck out.
Redlands (14-5) now awaits the NCAA's announcement, which will be made on Monday at 10 a.m. PDT.