The University of Redlands softball team opened the 2018 campaign on a gorgeous Sunday at the Field of Dreams while facing the visiting Lutes of Pacific Lutheran University (WA). Despite nearly matching the Lutes in hits over the two games, the Bulldogs struggled to push runs across home plate and lost both to the in-region foes, 1-4 and 1-2.
After PLU jumped on the board in the first inning, Redlands settled down with strong defense in the second. Senior catcher Lali Garza (Granite Bay, CA) threw out the would-be base-stealer at second base to get things started before first-year pitcher Jocelyn Hernandez (Downey, CA) forced a pair of groundouts to the middle infield.
However, the Lutes responded with a two-spot in the fourth to force the Maroon and Gray into a bigger hole.
Nonetheless, Redlands went to work in the bottom of the frame to make it 1-4. With one out, junior second baseman Jordyn Smith (Highland, CA) showed patience at the plate and earned her way on with a walk. Senior Shannon Skrzynski (Pomona, CA) made the most of her opportunity as a pinch hitter by blasting a double to right center off the first pitch to send Smith home. Unfortunately, the rally stopped there for the Bulldogs.
After junior pitcher Lindsey Mifsud (Belmont, CA) took over the circle for the Maroon and Gray, the home team was tested when the Lutes loaded the bases in the top of the fifth. But a heads-up defensive play by senior first baseman Olivia Vierra (Burlingame, CA) converted the first out of the inning at home. Mifsud rode that momentum by producing back-to-back pop-ups to get out of the inning.
Despite four more hits over the next three innings, Redlands struggled to inch any closer and suffered the 1-4 opening loss.
During the nightcap, the Bulldogs got ahead early with a solid first inning. With one out, first-year centerfielder Samantha Rivas (Whittier, CA) doubled to the left-center fence before Garza moved her to third on a single that was just out of reach of the PLU pitcher. Senior right fielder Shandell Curtis (Upland, CA) tapped the ball into play, which forced the defense to attempt the out at home on a fielder's choice. But a speedy Rivas touched the plate in time for the Bulldogs' first run.
A pitchers' duel ensued, with Mifsud dealing for Redlands and allowing just one hit over the next three innings.
However, PLU managed to figure it out at the plate and strung together two hits for two runs in the top of the fifth inning.
The Bulldogs' best scoring opportunity came in the bottom of the fifth, when they loaded the bases on an error, a single by Rivas, and a hit-by-pitch for Garza. But the Lutes' defense got out of the jam on a fielder's choice to home.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, senior second baseman Elise Ramirez (Redlands, CA) and junior left fielder Jennifer Ng (Pleasanton, CA) fired off back-to-back singles through the left side but never made it past second base.
Senior first baseman Ursyla Baumgarten (Penngrove, CA) led the Maroon and Gray with a 4-for-8 showing at the plate, while Rivas went 3-for-8.
Redlands (0-2) hosts George Fox University (OR) on Friday, February 9, at 12 noon for a non-conference doubleheader at the Softball Field of Dreams.