The Leopards softball team started a three game skid against the Redlands Bulldogs on April 15 at Campus West, losing 10-0.
The Leopards in the series against the Bulldogs were without a key number of players due to the NCAA’s COVID-19 exposure protocols. The rules make athletes not fully vaccinated subject to quarantine if they are in close contact with the COVID-19 virus, leaving the Leopards with only 11 players in their lineup.
The following day, Saturday, the Leopards went on the road to face Redlands in a doubleheader. They fell again to the Bulldogs, 6-1 in the first game and 5-4 in extra innings in the final meeting. The Leopards are currently 9-6 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“We were short handed, but they (the Bulldogs) are a good team,” head coach Dennis Blas said. “We’re playing with people out of position, and the girls are gonna play hard with whatever we do.”
In the first game of the series, the Leopards had trouble getting their offense going. The first inning was scoreless and quick, as three outs for both teams started the second inning.
The second inning started off fast with a home run by Bulldog freshman third baseman Sierra Daley but this was the only score in the inning, as junior pitcher Rachel Rubio was able to recover with a strike out and two ground outs. The Leopards were unable to answer back with their trip to the plate.
“We are definitely optimistic but trying to take it one game at a time especially after a loss like this, it does hurt but we are taking it as a learning moment,” Rubio said. “I think we were in our heads and we played scared today being down this many girls.”
When the third inning started, Redlands came out hot. They scored three runs in the inning, starting with a two-run homer by sophomore shortstop Collette Allen. The Leopards could not capitalize and finished the third inning down 4-0.
The fourth inning started off much like the third inning as the Bulldogs started their scoring with a two-run home run by junior left fielder Alexis Campos, putting the Leopards down even further. Redlands finished the inning with a 7-0 lead and the Leopards’ offense was unable to get started.
“We’re always trying to pick each other up. We always have this mindset if you don’t have it on the field, try to have it at bat,” sophomore center fielder Haylee Hsieh said. “Whatever we are lacking on defense, we can see if we can pick it up on offense,”
At the start of the fifth inning, junior pitcher Katelyn Shephard was subbed in for Rubio to try and change the tide of the game. The Bulldogs were streaking however and were able to add on three more runs in the final inning. But the Leopards could not mount any sort of comeback and lost in five innings, 10-0.
“We have to just try and keep our energy up, and do what I can to help my team. It is hard right now, we’re obviously down a lot of players,” freshman left fielder Ashley Rodriguez said. “Coming back from a lead like this is hard but stepping up is the big thing that makes up for it.”
The Leopards take on the Cal Lutheran Regals next, starting with a 3 p.m. Friday game in Thousand Oaks. They will then head back home to Campus West on Saturday for a doubleheader at noon in their possible final meeting of the season.
Eric Esquibel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.