By Michelle Gardner
REDLANDS — The young Claremont-Mudd-Scripps softball team knew it faced a formidable challenge in having to face traditional power University of Redlands in the championship game of the SCIAC tournament Saturday afternoon.
It didn’t help that the Athenas had to fight through the loser’s bracket, outlasting La Verne in 13 innings, only to play Redlands an hour later.
Experience paid off as the top-seeded Bulldogs posted a 5-1 win in the title tilt. Redlands (30-10) now awaits word on where it will head for the Division III West Region while CMS (28-14) is hoping the strong showing will result in an at-large berth. The SCIAC did get two teams in the regional last season.
“They have a championship culture and we’re still trying to build one. We went a long way in doing that today,” CMS coach Betsy Hipple said. “That game took a ton out of us but we still had to stay the course. We knew it was going to be an uphill battle.”
The Bulldogs, ranked No. 25 by the NFSCA, had their ace in the circle as junior Olivia Ellis hurled every inning of all three of her team’s games in the event. She set down the first 13 hitters she faced with the first hit being a single by Emily Lopez with one out in the fifth.
By then Redlands had already surged out to a 5-0 lead with senior second baseman Dory Baga knocking home four of those runs. She clubbed a three-run home run off an 0-2 pitch from Julia Cruz in the third that followed singles by Kayla Peterson and Lizett Casillas.
“I was looking for something inside,” Baga said. “We have been focusing on swinging hard and it paid off. It was nice to have a lead but we respect the game and we know anything can still happen.”
Redlands, the visiting team despite playing on its home field, added to that in the fifth with the same players doing the damage. Peterson and Casillas singled with Peterson scoring on Baga’s second hit of the day. Lindsay Henry then drove home Casillas with a single and the Bulldogs were not threatened again.
Ellis surrendered just four hits and one run while striking out six.
CMS, which finished the game with four freshman and five sophomores on the field, prevented the shutout with a run in the seventh on a run-scoring single by sophomore Chelsea Baker.
Ellis was also backed by a defense that played error-free.
“Our first goal was winning the regular season and the second was the conference tournament,” Redlands coach Laurie Nevarez said. “We’re going to savor this today and tomorrow refocus on a regional championship.”
Redlands will find out its destination for the regional on Monday. It has submitted a bid to host but everything depends on what teams qualify and how many will have to be flown in.
Hipple will be on the call as the conference rep.
“I hope we get a shot to keep playing but I’m proud no matter what happens,” she said.
CMS 3, La Verne 2
Michelle Brody stroked a run-scoring single in the 13th inning to boost the Athenas past defending champion La Verne in loser’s bracket play.
The game tookl more than three hours. CMS managed 13 hits and La Verne collected 12. Each team finished with 13 runners left on base with CMS loading the bases in the eighth and ninth with no outs but failing to score.
Brody and Jessica Vaughn had three hits each for the Athenas. La Verne got two each from Melissa Carlson, Diandra Burns and Daryn Schively.