REDLANDS The No. 7 University of Redlands softball team proved it can win with the short game and the long game, all in the same day.
The defending champion Bulldogs swept a SCIAC doubleheader from much-improved Pomona-Pitzer 1-0 and 7-6 Saturday to keep a strong hold on first-place.
Redlands (20-2, 11-1), which has won 20 straight games, took the first contest on a one-out squeeze bunt in the bottom of the eighth by senior shortstop Melanie Hamlin.
The Bulldogs then won the nightcap on a two-run walkoff home run by sophomore catcher Nicky Neumann.
We didnt play up to our potential today but we found a way, Redlands coach Laurie Nevarez said. We got lucky with a couple of hits and that was the difference.
The first game was a pitchers dual between seniors as Katie Brnca allowed the Sagehens just two hits and struck out six. Pitzers Billie McGrane was up the challenge and gave up just six while striking out four.
But one of those hits was a triple to Neumann with one out in the bottom of the eighth. Hamlin, a Redlands East Valley product, came up next and laid down a bunt that was retrieved by McGrane, whose toss to home wasnt handled by catcher Alyssa Corley.
Neumann factored even bigger in the nightcap. The Sagehens (12-8, 5-5) surged out to a 4-0 lead, powered by a solo home run by Christine Calderon in the fourth and a two-run shot by Corley in the fifth.
The Bulldogs answered with a five-run outburst in the bottom of the inning, the big blows being a run-scoring double by Dory Baga and two-run singles by Remy Kawaguchi and Kayla Peterson.
But back came the visitors, who took a 6-5 lead on a two-run bloop single by Leanna Guillermo in the sixth.
The Sagehens again were on the brink of victory as sophomore Melanie Gularte, who entered in relief of starter Alexis Garcia in the fourth, fanned the first two hitters in the seventh.
Peterson then reached on an infield single, setting the stage for Neumann who smacked a 1-0 pitch over the leftfield fence, ending the contest.
We seem to know when to turn it on, Neumann said. I was really just interested in getting a single. The last thing I was thinking about was a home run. Wow. That was so exciting, I dont know what else to say.
The close calls were little consolation for a Sagehen team that has made monumental strides. In 2007 Pitzer finished sixth of seven teams in the conference at 15-24 overall and 8-16 in conference. Their losses to Redlands came by scores of 5-0, 9-4, 11-2 and 10-0.
I am pleased with how far we have come and that we have raised the bar, second-year coach Joanne Ferguson said. Its a step in the right direction but were not satisifed.
Nevarez, a former player at UCLA, was impressed with the opposition.
That coach has done a great job with them, Nevarez said. They arent just improved, theyre a good team that really gave us our most competitive conference games so far.