2012 Summary: Bulldog Softball Makes it Eight Straight during Impressive Season
The 2012 edition of Bulldog softball built on its rich tradition of winning by securing its eighth consecutive season with at least 30 victories in addition to earning its eighth straight conference title and NCAA Championships appearance. Notching a 32-13 overall record and an impressive 21-3 mark in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC), the Maroon and Gray experienced one of its more remarkable seasons to date, complete with numerous individual accolades, outstanding moments, and team achievements.
After gaining valuable experience against talented NAIA squads to begin the season, Redlands kicked off its SCIAC campaign in fantastic fashion by sweeping the Regals of Cal Lutheran University by scores of 16-5 and 8-5. Freshman infielder Linda Park (Torrance, CA) uncorked one of her better games of her rookie campaign, going 2-for-5 at the dish with five RBI, including a three-run long ball. Sophomore outfielder Amanda Lievanos (Anaheim, CA) headlined the nightcap for the Bulldogs when she crushed her third home run of the young season in the three-run victory.
Junior pitcher Kayla Uphold (Fontana, CA) led the Bulldogs to a sweep over Pomona-Pitzer Colleges the following weekend, going the distance in the 12-4 opener while scattering five hits and giving up only two earned runs. Pinch-hitting in the second game, senior Jen Boschken (Davis, CA) launched a two-RBI long ball in the 9-0 thrashing of the Sagehens.
On a roll, the Bulldogs took two from Whittier College, both ending via the mercy rule in five innings, to remain atop the conference standings after three series.
Bulldog pitching starred in a non-conference twin bill against Vanguard University on February 25. Uphold stepped up once again for Redlands, throwing a complete-game shutout while giving up just four hits and striking out as many in a 2-0 win. In the second game, senior Breanna Ruelas (Brawley, CA) recorded her fourth win of the season, giving up just one earned run in six innings for the 7-2 triumph.
Back in SCIAC play, the U of R cruised past Occidental College and the University of La Verne before taking on non-conference foe, Webster University (MO), in the beginning of March. Uphold pitched a complete game in five innings without allowing a hit, run or walk – recording her first perfect game! Although this was an impressive performance in itself, the Bulldog bats also performed well, as Lievanos led the way with two hits and three RBI in the 9-0 victory. Sophomore outfielder Janelle Carrasco (Whittier, CA) kept the offense on fire by notching a multi-hit performance in the 10-0 nightcap win over Webster. Furthermore, sophomore utility player Amanda Clark (Riverside, CA) provided consistency at the top of the batting order, going 6-for-8 on the day with three runs scored and two RBI.
Virginia Wesleyan College was Redlands' next victim, as the Maroon and Gray swept another doubleheader against this non-conference opponent. After falling behind 4-1 in the second inning, the Bulldogs fought back to tie the game at five-all in the bottom of the fifth. Junior second-baseman Arlene Martinez (Corona, CA) and Lievanos both ripped RBI-singles during the game-tying inning. Riding the momentum, Redlands exploded for five more runs in the bottom half of the sixth en route to taking game one by a score of 10-5. Game two was a different story as the U of R left no doubt with a 9-0 lead after the first three frames, winning the game by a final of 10-2 in a shortened contest.
In what turned out to be a crucial conference bout with SCIAC rival Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges, Redlands used timely hitting and solid pitching to down the Athenas in both games of a doubleheader. Lievanos connected for her ninth home run of the season in the opener on the way to the Maroon and Gray's 10-2 win. The second game of the day saw a much tighter battle, with both teams trading leads at different points in the contest. Tied at two apiece going into the bottom half of the seventh, Carrasco came up clutch by smacking a game-winning RBI-single to score senior third baseman Molly Duran (Corona, CA), who had led off the inning with a single.
With a 9-0 trouncing of Whittier, Redlands reset the program record for consecutive wins with its 19th victory on March 25, topping the previous mark of 16 straight games that came in 2011. With a 4-0 lead after three innings, the Bulldogs opened it up in the bottom of the fourth frame as senior first baseman Rikki Scates (Redlands, CA) and senior catcher Kai Masutani (Honolulu, HI) posted RBI-singles before Duran ripped off a two-run homer to cap off the inning.
Unfortunately, the streak was halted in the nightcap as Redlands fell to the Poets in a 0-2 decision.
After a two-game setback to top-ranked Linfield College (OR), the Maroon and Gray bounced back to sweep both Cal Lutheran University and Chapman University in consecutive doubleheaders. A split with Pomona-Pitzer Colleges kept Redlands in first-place in the SCIAC standings with three regular-season double headers left to play.
Redlands rolled past the Leopards of La Verne, winning both games by tight margins, 3-2 and 7-5. Although the bats appeared to struggle in the opener, Uphold was solid from the circle, pitching all seven frames while allowing only one earned run. Junior centerfielder Sarah Beeman (Corona, CA) returned to action after a 24-game hiatus due to injury and carried the Bulldogs' offensive production with a 4-for-6 effort with one RBI and two runs scored in the two games, including a 3-for-3 showing in the nightcap.
The following day, the Maroon and Gray clinched at least a share of the SCIAC title by sweeping the Occidental Tigers by back-to-back tallies of 8-0. Lievanos stole the show by breaking the school record for career home runs as a sophomore, when she launched her 21st and 22nd long balls during the twin bill.
The now ranked No. 13 Redlands softball team clinched the 2012 SCIAC championship before facing CMS in the last doubleheader of the regular season, as the 22nd-ranked Athenas dropped their first of four games of the final weekend. The Bulldogs solidified the honor by defeating CMS, 4-0, in the front half of the squads' concluding twin bill to wrap up Redlands' eighth conference title in a row and ninth overall. In addition to the coveted title, the Maroon and Gray garnered the right to host the SCIAC Postseason Tournament as the top seed.
After a surprise loss to the fourth-seeded Poets in the opening game, the Bulldogs needed to climb back from the bottom half of the bracket while facing must-win situations in every contest.
The squad equalized that untimely defeat with an impressive 11-0 win over Pomona-Pitzer in just five innings. With the triumph, Redlands faced off against Whittier once again, with the loser being eliminated and the winner earning the right to play Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges. In dramatic walk-off fashion, Lievanos belted a game-ending home run in the bottom of the tenth inning for the exciting 6-5 victory. Uphold put together a heroic pitching effort against the Poets, going all 10 innings while allowing five runs and striking out four.
Needing to win two games against the unbeaten Athenas, Redlands came up short in its elimination game, losing 0-2 in the first contest between the SCIAC rivals and sending Claremont-Mudd-Scripps to the NCAA Championships as the automatic qualifier. Despite the regular-season title residing at Redlands, the Bulldogs were forced to wait for a possible at-large berth for the program's eighth consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.
A little more than a week later, it was announced that the Maroon and Gray was indeed headed to playoffs, traveling to the University of Texas-Tyler to take on Birmingham-Southern College (AL) in the First Round of the NCAA Championships. Senior first baseman Rikki Scates (Redlands, CA) led the Bulldogs to a 6-4 victory against the Panthers, going 1-for-4 at the plate with two crucial RBI in the four-run second inning.
The win pitted Redlands against the eventual NCAA Division III national champion, Pacific Lutheran University (WA), for an incredible pitchers' duel that saw the contest remain scoreless through six innings. But that's when Beeman connected on an RBI-single down the left-field line, scoring Duran to give the Bulldogs the one-run lead. Unfortunately, the Lutes answered in the bottom half of the frame to send the game to extra innings. After Redlands was held scoreless in the top half of the eighth, the Lutes tacked on the winning run, forcing the Bulldogs to the elimination game against the team they had just beaten the day prior. This time however, Birmingham Southern's single score in the first inning held up for the win, ending Redlands' season.
Beyond the impressive wins and streaks, the Maroon and Gray collected six All-SCIAC selections, including Uphold as the SCIAC Player of the Year. Lievanos, Ruelas, Scates, and Clark all joined Uphold on the All-Conference First-Team, while Park earned Second-Team honors.
The team continued to rake in the awards as Lievanos landed on the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-West Region First Team. In addition, Uphold received Second-Team plaudits and Scates earned a spot on the Third Team. Thanks to her sensational sophomore season, Lievanos was selected to the NFCA All-America First Team and the Easton non-Division I All-America Team.
It was yet another special season for a special team, and while the program lost a solid senior class, the Bulldogs return a core group of players that will look to lead Redlands to a ninth consecutive SCIAC Championship. Head Coach Laurie Nevarez has tallied 284 wins in her nine seasons with the U of R, and she looks to pass up the 300 mark in the 2013 campaign. With her guidance and leadership, Redlands is in good position to reload and once again rewrite the record books.