Softball clinches SCIAC tournament berth

The Chapman softball team (24-16, 17-11) clinched a SCIAC (Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) berth, sweeping a doubleheader against California Lutheran (19-19, 13-15) on the road Saturday.

The Panthers came out hot in the first game, winning 8-0 in five innings because of the SCIAC runs rule. They continued that success in the second game of the doubleheader, earning a 3-1 victory.

“It felt great getting two wins today and being able to make the playoffs for the second year in a row,” said sophomore catcher Lisa Perez. “We know that’s what we are capable of when we play to our full potential.”

Junior pitcher Cassie Oregel tossed a complete game shutout in the first game, surrendering two hits to pick up her 14th win of the season. Her 14 wins rank third in the SCIAC.

The Panthers had seven hits in the game, led by freshman shortstop Amber Perez, who went two-for-three.

Chapman’s stellar pitching continued in the second game, as sophomore Natalie Both threw a complete game, giving up one earned run and striking out nine. Both lead the SCIAC in strikeouts, with 168.

“Now that I have been catching both Natalie and Cassie for two seasons, we share a pitcher-catcher bond, which helps with staying relaxed. We know each other well enough to work the batters and get efficient outs,” said Lisa Perez.

After not scoring for the first five innings, Chapman’s offense came alive and was able to score three runs on seven hits. Junior outfielder Karina Muniz led the team with two hits and a run.

The two victories over sixth-place Cal Lu allowed Chapman to clinch the third seed in the SCIAC tournament, which takes the top four teams in SCIAC. The winner of the tournament earns an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

“It’s a huge relief to know for sure we are going to the tournament,” Both said. “We’re all really excited to be returning for a second year, and hopefully this year we’ll have a more successful outing.”

Earlier in the week, Chapman hosted a doubleheader against La Verne (20-20, 14-14). La Verne swept Chapman, beating the Panthers 6-4 and 9-6 in the two games.

Amber Perez provided the only Chapman highlight of the day, launching a solo homer in the first game. The home run was her second on the season.

“I saw the ball go straight up, and I thought they might have caught it,” Amber Perez said. “I was actually shocked when I rounded first and saw that it went over the fence.”

Chapman will take on second-seeded Claremont in their first game of the double elimination SCIAC tournament Friday. Top-seeded Redlands and fourth-seeded Whittier are the other two teams in the tournament. The times of the games will be announced early this week. All SCIAC tournament games will be hosted by Redlands.

“I think we all have really high expectations for the tournament. We have beaten every team at least once so we have full confidence that we can win the tournament,” Both said.

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