In a unique Friday afternoon, the University of Redlands baseball team faced a doubleheader against two non-conference opponents in Ithaca College (NY) and Rutgers University-Newark (NJ). The Bulldogs fell just short against Ithaca in a 6-7 decision but quickly turned things around with a solid, 4-1 victory over Rutgers-Newark.
Against Ithaca, senior ace Felix Minjarez (Riverside, CA) finished the first inning by retiring two of three hitters by way of strikeout.
Unfortunately, the Bombers tacked on five runs on three hits and a Bulldog miscue in the second to take a 5-0 lead early in the game.
In the bottom of third, the Maroon and Gray inched its way closer with one run on two hits. Junior designated hitter Bart In den Kleef (Oosterhout, Netherlands) singled through the left side and advanced to second on the subsequent sacrifice bunt. With great speed, senior second baseman Will Hall (Seattle, WA) beat out a hard-to-handle groundball to short. In den Kleef took third and then raced home on a Bomber error on the same play.
After Ithaca added a run in the top of the fourth on a two-out solo home run, Redlands answered back in the bottom of that frame to cut the deficit in half, 3-6. Senior third baseman Brendan Gardiner (Mission Viejo, CA) dinged a double to left center to lead off the inning. Senior catcher Rainier Aguilar (San Bernardino, CA) followed with a single through the 3-4 hole to plate Gardiner. Junior first baseman Brendan Moore (Murrieta, CA) kept the hit streak up with a deep double to the right-center dirt hill to move Aguilar to third. He scored on the next sacrifice fly.
In the seventh, first-year hurler Nick Hammel (San Diego, CA) took over pitching duties but the Bombers scored one run on two hits.
Down by a score of 3-7, Redlands had some ground to cover in a short amount of time if they wanted to execute a comeback. In the bottom of the ninth, senior right fielder Jordan Babbitt (Highland, CA) launched a double down the right-field line. After a walk and hit-by-pitch, the bases were juiced for Hall. In a two-out, pressure situation, Hall lined a bases-clearing double to right center for a 6-7 score. Sadly, Redlands could not muster any more offense for a close, 6-7, loss.
After a short break, first-year pitcher Matt Crow (Lake Elsinore, CA) climbed the bump for the home team in game two against Rutgers University-Newark. He recorded three collective strikeouts over the first and second innings. Although each team earned base runners, neither team could push a run home, keeping the game scoreless through the bottom of the sixth inning.
Some defensive highlights came in the middle innings, as Aguilar picked off the runner at third for the second out in the top of the fifth to keep the Scarlet Raiders off the board. Hall and junior shortstop Aaron Singh (Anaheim, CA) made excellent defensive plays on the edge of the dirt for the first two outs of the sixth to help put their team back on offense.
Hall provided highlights at the plate as well by speeding to third on a leadoff triple to right center in the bottom of the sixth. Gardiner plated Hall on a sacrifice fly. After a Scarlet Raider miscue, Moore knocked a double halfway up the left-field fence for an RBI and the 2-0 Redlands lead.
Sophomore pitcher Austin Williams (Redlands, CA) came in to pitch and gave up two hits and a run before striking out his third batter. First-year pitcher Justin Yang (Fountain Valley, CA) entered the inning with an out and two runners on. He quickly recorded the final two outs, with the last coming off a looking strikeout.
Yang continued to deal in the eighth, going three up, three down, with two strikeouts. Redlands' offense backed him in the bottom of that inning. With two outs, Moore lined a single to right before Singh sent the ball over the right-center fence for a two-run home run and a slightly larger, 4-1 lead.
Yang was sent back out to pitch the ninth and was money from the mound, sitting the three batters in order with two strikeouts, to preserve the 4-1 victory.
Hall and Singh combined for six hits and six RBI over the two games. Redlands' rookie pitchers impressed in game two, as Crow struck out five in six innings and Yang sat five in just 2.2 innings of work.
The Bulldogs (16-5) face Endicott College (MA) for the second time this week on Saturday, March 17, for an 11 a.m. single game at the Yard.