Postgame Press Conference
REDLANDS, Calif. – Veering off course from its plan for a deep playoff run, Linfield found itself on the wrong end of a pair of one-run losses Friday in the NCAA Division III Redlands Regional at the Field of Dreams.
The Northwest Conference champions saw their season abruptly come to an end in a second straight two-and-out showing at the regional tournament. Friday began with a 2-1 loss to fiery Claremont-Mudd-Scripps before ending with a thud in an error-filled 7-6 loss to Redlands.
The Wildcats (34-9) entered the Redlands Regional as the top seed and with arguably the tournament's top pitcher in senior Karina Paavola. And though Paavola pitched well in both contests Friday, it wasn't enough to overcome two opportunistic teams from the Southern California area.
It marked a disappointing end to the playing careers of Wildcat seniors Paavola, Haylie Watson, Ashley Garcia, Shelby VandeBergh and Katy Brosig, all of whom went down fighting in their final apperances in Linfield uniforms.
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 2, Linfield 1
Hayley Schultz pitched a complete-game three-hitter and CMS created just enough offense to score the upset over the favored Wildcats.
The Athenas (29-13) scored their second-straight upset in the postseason. CMS surprised rival Redlands, the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular-season champion, in the SCIAC tournament to claim a last-minute berth to the NCAA Tournament. Now the Athenas are in the driver's seat, needing to beat Redlands just once on Saturday to advance to next weekend's Super Regionals.
Two hits in their first two at-bats produced the Wildcats' only run of the game. Grace Middelstadt singled up the middle to lead off things off, then was sent all the way around to home by way of a line-drive double to left-center field by Erin Carson. The Wildcats came close to making it 2-0 after Carson stole third base, but the junior was tagged out at the plate when Garcia hit into a fielder's choice.
Schultz settled down after that, foiling Linfield batters repeatedly and limiting the high-powered ‘Cats to one hit the rest of the way.
CMS picked up the equalizer in the bottom of the opening frame. The Athenas loaded the bases on Paavola, who nicked Carlene Roberts in the batter's box to force home Janelle Shiozaki.
Tied at 1, CMS led off the third inning with a pair of bunt singles and went on to load the bases once more following a single by Katie Savard. Roberts came to the plate and lofted a sacrifice fly to center, opening the door for Tara Robinson to score the game-winning run.
Linfield left runners stranded at first base in the fifth and seventh innings, but could not place a runner in scoring position. Schultz remained steady throughout, striking out five Wildcats and conceding just a single walk.
Paavola (19-4) finished with eight strikeouts but surrendered seven hits and issued a pair of walks.
Redlands 7, Linfield 6
An assortment of early miscues gave Redlands the traction it needed to grab early momentum.
Redlands leadoff hitter A.J. Carrasco reached base on an error, then eventually scored on a throwing error from the outfield. Another defensive mistake enabled Redlands to score a second run moments later, forcing the Wildcats to play catch-up from the onset.
The Bulldogs put Linfield in a deeper hole in the second inning, adding two more runs. A.J. Carrasco tripled to lead of the inning, Janelle Carrasco successfully bunted to first base, and both were carried home on a single up the middle by Amanda Lievanos.
Watson sliced the Linfield deficit in half with a two-run homer in the bottom of the second inning after Erin Kinney (Jr., Bainbridge Island, Wash.) led off the inning with a double.
Linfield loaded bases on Redlands hurler Kaitlyn Hooper in the fourth inning, but Middelstadt lined out into the glove of Vicki King to end the inning.
Redlands pushed its lead to 7-2 with three more runs in the fourth. A.J. Carrasco doubled and scored when Janelle Carrasco singled to left field. A two-run homer by Lievanos dropped the Wildcats into a five-run hole.
Though it was beginning to look bleak, the Wildcats continued to battle for survival. In the fourth, Garcia sent a three-run homer beyond the left-center field fence, cutting the margin to 7-5. With one out, Watson drilled her second homer of the game to center field, making it 7-6.
Linfield had its chances to pull the game out of the fire in the sixth. The ‘Cats put two runners aboard with no outs, but Middlestadt was thrown out at third base and the Bulldogs doubled up Garcia and Carson to end the inning.
Despite the late swing of momentum, the Wildcats couldn't sustain it, going three up, three down in the seventh to end the game and the season.
Carson went 3-for-3. Both of Watson's two hits went for home runs. Linfield finished with nine hits, five of which were for extra bases.
VandeBergh, the Wildcats' starter, took the loss in her final game. She faced the first 10 batters before giving way to Paavola when the game, and the season, began to slip away.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Watson and Carson were named to the Redlands Regional all-tournament team. . . Carson hit .667 with two doubles and one stolen base while Wason batted .400 with two home runs and three RBI. . . the second-ranked Wildcats climbed this week to their highest position in the NFCA Top 25 poll. . . CMS was ranked 22nd in the most recent NFCA poll while Redlands was rated 25th. . . before Friday, Linfield and CMS had met 18 previous times on the softball diamond with the Wildcats winning 12 of those . . .the Wildcats and Athenas met once previously in the NCAA playoffs, with Linfield winning that contest 10-3 in the 2010 Indianola Regional. . . Redlands also dealt Linfield a playoff loss in the opening contest at last season's Tyler Regional, though the Wildcats own a 20-8 series advantage, including a 5-4 edge in the playoffs.