The Redlands Regional of the 2014 NCAA Division III Softball Championships began on Friday with familiar foes Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges and the University of Redlands staying alive, and Linfield College (OR) heading home after two losses.
Redlands (31-14) now faces CMS (30-13) in the teams' ninth meeting of the season, competing in the regional final at 12 noon on Saturday at the Softball Field of Dreams.
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In the only elimination game of the day, the Bulldogs sent Linfield (34-9) home in a wild 7-6 showdown that featured three home runs and six errors. Redlands jumped on top early with four runs over the first two frames. Redlands' first two scores came via Wildcat errors, while Amanda Lievanos ripped an RBI-single up the middle, scoring AJ Carrasco and Janelle Carrasco in the second frame.
However, Linfield cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the second when Haylie Watson crushed a two-run homerun over the left-field fence.
The Maroon and Gray tacked on three more in the fourth to take a 7-2 lead. After AJ Carrasco came across the plate early on in the frame, Amanda Lievanos blasted a two-run moon shot over the left-field wall to seemingly put Redlands in the driver seat.
But once again, the Wildcats battled back with an impressive performance in the bottom of the fifth. Ashley Garcia smacked a three-run shot over the center-field wall, before Haylie Watson followed that up with a solo home run to deep center, cutting the deficit to just one run.
Redlands' pitcher Kaitlyn Hooper finished out the challenging inning, forcing two ground-outs over the next three batters, and then proceeded to successfully battle through the final out.
In addition, the two squads continued to force each other to step up in the regional showdown, with both defenses impressing with a double play in one of the ensuing innings.
Holding on to the one-run lead, the Bulldogs faced a veteran Linfield team in the bottom of the seventh. With Kaitlyn Hooper in the circle, Redlands came up with the necessary plays, executing a three-up and three-down scenario for the win.
Kaitlyn Hooper improved to 21-6 on the season.
At the plate, Amanda Lievanos led all players with a 3-for-4 showing with four RBI and two runs scored.
View Redlands' post-game interview with Head Coach Dani Spaulding, Amanda Lievanos, and AJ Carrasco.
For Linfield, Ashley Garcia and Haylie Watson each notched three RBI.
In the day's opener, the Athenas of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges also stunned the third-ranked Wildcats of Linfield in a 2-1 decision.
Playing as the visitors, Linfield came out firing with back-to-back hits. Erin Carson's double to left field plated Grace Middelstadt for the early 1-0 lead.
After a defensive timeout by the Athenas, the squad settled down to make a huge play in a fielder's choice at home on a well-placed bunt by Wildcat Ashley Garcia.
In the bottom of the frame, CMS answered with a bases-loaded-RBI on a hit by pitch. Carlene Roberts earned the positive statistic for the Athenas.
Two frames later, CMS executed its short-game offense with consecutive bunt-singles to start the inning. Katie Savard then loaded the bases with a hit through the right side, before Carlene Roberts fired off a sacrifice fly to center field, bringing home Tara Robinson for the 2-1 lead.
Throughout the final innings, Linfield had its chances to score but left two stranded on base. In addition, CMS' Hayley Schultz took care of business in a complete-game effort from the circle. She fanned five and scattered just three hits by the final out of the game.
The Athenas racked up seven hits against Linfield starter Karina Paavola. Tara Robinson led the performance with three knocks.
Watch Linfield's post-game interview with Head Coach Jackson Vaughn and Karina Paavola.
In game two, the Athenas came from behind to defeat Redlands, 8-5.
Redlands initiated the scoring on an RBI-single by Amanda Lievanos with AJ Carrasco on second base. AJ Carrasco opened the inning with a short single before being moved over on a sacrifice bunt by Janelle Carrasco.
With one out in the third, Vicki King unleashed her seventh home run of the campaign, making it a 2-0 advantage for the Maroon and Gray.
However, CMS opened up the game in the top of the fifth to take a 6-2 lead. The highlight of the inning came off of Brooklyn Robinson's bat when she roped a three-run bomb to right-center field. In addition, Tara Robinson got things rolling for the Athenas earlier in the frame with a long single for a pair of RBI. Although the Bulldog defense fired off a perfect throw from center field on the play, the runner was called safe in a tight play.
Refusing to go away, Redlands pulled two back in the bottom of the inning. With Janelle Carrasco on base, Amanda Lievanos rocketed a run-scoring double to the right-field fence, missing out on a long ball by less than a foot. Then, with two runners on, Kristen Hooper connected on a single up the middle, plating Lievanos from third base.
The Bulldogs kept coming in the sixth, when King stepped up with an RBI to plate AJ Carrasco, who led off with another single.
Nonetheless, the Athenas weren't done yet either, with Brooklyn Robinson uncorking a two-run shot that ultimately put the game out of reach for the Maroon and Gray.
Redlands registered 12 hits but left 10 runners on base, proving to be the difference-maker in the loss. AJ Carrasco led the Bulldogs with a 3-for-4 effort that included two runs scored. Lievanos and King both finished the outing with two RBI.
For CMS, Brooklyn Robinson shined at the plate with her first two career home runs, which provided five RBI.
Hayley Schultz recorded the save after returning to the game in the fifth while relieving Kaylilani Minami after 3.1 innings of work.
Watch CMS' post-game interview with Head Coach Betsy Hipple, Haylie Schultz, and Brooklyn Robinson.