The Occidental softball team swept The University of Redlands April 7, winning 7–3 in the first game and 3–2 in the second. Catcher Bailey Stevens (junior) capped off the series, played at Redlands, by hitting a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning of the second game. The sweep vaulted Occidental out of last place in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) standings and into seventh. The Tigers also claimed the season series over Redlands, given that the two teams split the first series played at Occidental February 17.
Stevens had been retired by Redlands pitcher Jocelyn Hernandez (first year) at her first two at-bats. For her third and final at-bat, Stevens said that a more patient plate approach helped her deliver the big hit.
“The last at-bat I took my time, got the count to 2–0, and then knew that she would challenge me,” Stevens said. “I sat on a fastball and delivered. It’s always been a dream to have a game-winning hit.”
In addition to Stevens’s clutch hit, Alexis Funaki (junior) pitched in both games and was crucial to the sweep. In game one Funaki went all seven innings, striking out seven and allowing three earned runs. With game one tied 3–3, Occidental scored four more runs in the final three innings while Funaki held Redlands scoreless after the third. In game two, Funaki was put in for the save in the bottom of the eighth inning after Stevens’s home run. Funaki was able to to secure the win for starting pitcher Olivia Thayer (senior), who pitched seven innings and allowed two earned runs.
“It was really different than everywhere else because we really wanted to beat them,” Funaki said. “We wanted to get back at them again because we split with them before.”
The sweep was especially needed given that the softball team felt that they had developed a curse at Redlands, according to Alexis Funaki (junior). The previous three trips to Redlands had included game-losing errors by a first year: three years ago a first year dropped a pop-fly, two years ago the ball popped out of Stevens’ glove when she tried to tag a runner scoring from third and last year a first year dropped a pop-fly yet again.
“It was in the back of our minds but we weren’t trying to show it,” Funaki said.
Manager Alison Haehnel said that the unfortunate outcomes were a result of not executing under pressure rather than a curse.
“I don’t believe in curses, I believe in preparation and execution under pressure,” Haehnel said. “We had great pitching outings by both Alexis Funaki and Olivia Thayer. Overall, they were two great team wins.”
Stevens believes that the slow start to the season has to do with the fact that six players, Stevens included, studied abroad during the Fall 2017 semester and therefore missed the entire fall season. Additionally, the Redlands sweep proved to Stevens that playing more consistent games could take the team a long way.
“Instead of getting five runs in one inning and then not getting any runs the rest of the game, we consistently added runs,” Stevens said. “That’s what we can take into the next series: being more consistent and not taking our foot off the gas pedal.”
To make the SCIAC Tournament, Occidental will need to jump to at least fourth place. Funaki remains optimistic that the team can make it.
“As the years go by we get closer and closer,” Funaki said. “There is still a possibility of making the tournament.”