Whitworth Opens With Split at #20 Redlands

REDLANDS, Calif. – Despite not getting outside to practice until yesterday, the Whitworth softball team opened the 2013 season with a 3-2 upset of 20th-ranked Redlands in nine innings in the second game of an afternoon doubleheader at the Bulldogs' Field of Dreams on Thursday. Redlands took the opener 8-0 in five innings.

Natalie Evers homered in the fifth inning of the second game for the Pirates' first run of the season and M'Liss Powles scored the winning run on a throwing error in the ninth to give the Bucs their initial win of the spring.

"Our jitters showed a bit the first game but I'm so proud that the girls stayed mentally tough after that game to come back and get a great win against a nationally ranked team," said head coach Cristal Brown.

Game 1 – Redlands 8, Whitworth 0 (5 innings)

Whitworth's first outside practice was yesterday after the team arrived in California and it showed.  Four Pirate errors led to three unearned runs as the Bulldogs cruised to a win in the opener. 

Redlands scored two unearned runs in the first inning as Whitworth committed two errors.  The Bulldogs added another unearned run in the second before tacking on four in the third inning.  Kristin Hooper had a two-run single in the four-run third inning.

Taylor Gilbert (0-1) started in the circle for Whitworth.  She allowed five earned runs on seven hits with four walks and two strikeouts in three innings.  Megan Fisher pitched the fourth inning.

Kayla Uphold (1-0) tossed a five-inning, three-hit shutout for Redlands.  She struck out six with no walks.

Game 2 – Whitworth 3, Redlands 2 (9 innings)

The Pirates rallied from an early 2-0 deficit, scoring the tying run in the seventh and the winning run in the ninth to back the outstanding relief pitching of Riley Fritz.

Fisher started in the circle for the Pirates and gave up two runs on three hits and a pair of walks in the opening inning.  Fritz (1-0) then pitched the next eight innings without giving up a run.  She allowed only three hits while striking out six and walking one batter.

"Riley did a great job keeping them of balance and that gave some confidence to our defense and then the offense started coming alive in the later innings," Brown said.

Evers' first home run of the season in the fifth got Whitworth within 2-1. 

Heather Hesselgesser drew a leadoff walk in the seventh and Caylan Haehl came on as the runner.  With runners on first and second, Jamie Brunner's one-out single to left field scored Haehl and sent the game into extra innings after Fritz stranded two Bulldogs on base in the bottom of the seventh .

Powles opened the ninth with a walk and Mackenzie Hope's infield single to the mound moved Powles to second base.  After Brunner grounded out, Evers walked to load the bases.  The Redlands catcher then attempted to pick off Powles at third base, but the ball went into left field and Powles scampered home with the go-ahead run.

Sacha Clow provided the drama in the bottom of the ninth.  With two outs and a runner on second base, Amanda Clark singled to center.  Clow threw out Gracie Rose at home plate for the final out of the game.

Whitworth will continue its season-opening trip to Southern California with a doubleheader at Cal Lutheran on Friday.