One run made the difference in all three of the baseball team’s victories in a doubleheader at the University of Redlands Saturday and a non-conference game against Bates College Sunday at Hart Park.
The games against Redlands, which the Panthers won by 8-7 and 3-2, were the team’s first two conference matchups of the season, as the Panthers’ Friday home game against the Bulldogs was canceled due to rain. Sunday’s 5-4 walk-off win over Bates was a non-conference game.
“Good teams win close games, so it definitely feels good to win some one-run games early on in the year,” said senior infielder John Wiehe.
In their 11 a.m. game against Redlands, the Panthers held the lead for most of the time and were able to survive a late-game comeback attempt from the Bulldogs to win the game 8-7. Sophomore infielder Jarod Penniman said that quality pitching, lively hitting and solid defense contributed to the Panthers’ win.
“If we are consistent, it will be a huge year,” said junior outfielder Conner Larkin. “Having (senior infielder) Tyler Cook and John Wiehe is a nice addition to the lineup. They both provide both good offensive power and defensive trust to the team. It’s really up us to take what is ours … I think we’re the hardest working team in the conference by far.”
The Panthers demonstrated the work rate Wiehe was talking about when they turned around and won again in the afternoon 3-2. The Panthers grabbed the lead through Cook’s two-run homer in the top of the third inning, followed by his game-winning run in the top of the fifth.
“It’s always nice to win close games, especially against teams in the (Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference),” Penniman said. “We know that we are one of the top teams in the conference and are ready to get after it.”
Against Bates, junior catcher Gavin Blodgett hit a two-out walk-off single, completing a three-run rally that saw the Panthers battle back to win the game 5-4.
The Panthers face Redlands at home Feb. 21 at 2:30 p.m. before beginning a three-game series against Pomona-Pitzer that sees Chapman traveling to the Sagehens Feb. 24 at 2:30 p.m. before playing a doubleheader at home against them on Feb. 25.
Doug Close contributed to this report.