Last year the University of Redlands softball team was fortunate. The Bulldogs finished first in the SCIAC during the regular season, only to lose the tournament final and the automatic playoff bid to University of La Verne.
But the Bulldogs made it into the Division III West Region tournament with an at-large bid.
They are hoping it doesn’t come down to that this season.
The Bulldogs host the four-team double-elimination event today and Saturday. No. 2 La Verne (27-13, 16-8) will face No. 3 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (26-12, 15-9) at 9 a.m. with No. 1 Redlands (27-10, 20-4) following against No. 4 Whittier (24-16, 11-13).
The loser’s bracket game is slated for 2 p.m. with the winners following at 4:30 p.m. Action gets underway at 10 a.m. on Saturday with a loser’s bracket game.
The Bulldogs, ranked No. 25 by the National Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association, went 4-0 against the Poets this season with two games ending early on the mercy rule.
Redlands leads the conference in hitting and fielding and ranks second to CMS in pitching.
Junior outfieler Kayla Peterson (.434) leads the team in hitting with sophomore first baseman Lizett Casillas (.419) and junior catcher Nicky Neumann (.383) among the other valuable offensive weapons. The Bulldogs have also gotten a boost from freshman Lindsay Henry (.393), named the SCIAC Rookie of the Year.
Junior Olivia Ellis (20-5, 1.70) and Amanda Doeppel (7-3, 1.93) have handled the bulk of the pitching.
The Leopards split both doubleheaders they played against the Athenas this season. Coach Julie Smith thinks her team is peaking at the right time.
It is led by senior outfielder Melissa Carlson (.462) who led the conference in hitting, runs scored and stolen bases. She earned SCIAC Player of the Year honors even though her team finished second.
Among the other La Verne standouts are freshman outfielder Diandra Burns (.443) and sophomore shortstop Ashley Paul (.384), also a starter on the basketball team.
“We’re loose. We’re confident. We’re ready to go,” she said. “I think we’re in a good place right now.”
Smith said the turning point for her team likely came halfway through the season when junior Sabrina Garcia (7-2, 2.68) joined the team. Sophomore Delaney Baylor (15-7, 2.36) had shouldered much of the load in the pitching circle but the team didn’t have a consistent No. 2.
Garcia was at the school, having transferred from NAIA Hope International. She planned on playing next year but Smith enlisted her help midseason.
“It’s in how you present it,” she said. “I just told them she is giving up more than she’s taking because she is giving up a year of eligibility to help us now.”
Redlands won three of four games against La Verne and split four games against CMS.
CMS is led by junior pitcher Julia Cruz (13-5, 1.18) and senior pitcher Erika Weingart (10-6, 2.80) and sophomore outfielder Gizelle Pera (.379).