Pui Lok Choi
The Leopards’ baseball team is set to build on its last game of the 2009 season by continuing to win.
After putting together a solid 23-16 record last season, the team not only expects to win more games but expects to win the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The 2010 season holds much promise as the team will be led by nine seniors and three returning 2009 first team All-SCIAC honorees – infielder Jon-Michael Hattabuagh, first baseman/outfielder Victor Peinado and catcher Mike Surina.
Mike Belcher, a senior utility player, is optimistic about the team and is excited to be back on the field after missing most of the 2009 season with a leg injury.
As a senior Belcher hopes to use his knowledge and help out his younger teammates.
“I feel like I’ve grown a lot as a player,” Belcher said.
“I’m more aware out there and I know when to do the things that I should be doing,” he added.
Freshman catcher Jason Moralez is also excited for his first college game.
“I hope to contribute whenever I get the chance and I’m just glad to be learning from the upperclassmen,” he said.
The team has been working hard this off-season and it showed in two scrimmage games against the alumni on Jan. 30, which the team won 17-1 and 8-3.
This year’s team brings balance, said head coach Scott Winterburn, who is heading into his 10th season.
“We have talent and a good solid group returning; we have starting pitching, power, defense, and some speed,” he said.
Although the Leopards have high hopes, they also have a tough challenge ahead.
During preseason play the Leopards will travel to Arizona from Feb. 11-14 for the Arizona Desert Classic.
For conference play the Leopards will face the Cal Lutheran Kingsmen who are ranked nationally at No. 20 by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper preseason poll, and the defending SCIAC champion Pomona-Pitzer.
Last year La Verne finished fourth in the SCIAC with a 12-9 conference record.
After rainouts for the first three games, senior pitcher Tim Jolly got the first start of the season against top NAIA contender Biola on Feb. 8. and took the loss.
Following the season opening 9-4 loss to Biola, the Leopards headed to Anthem, Ariz., on Thursday to play in a four-day tournament at the Arizona Desert Classic.
Conference play for La Verne will begin Feb. 19 when the Leopards travel to Redlands. Then will host the Bulldogs the following day for a doubleheader at Ben Hines Field.
Pui Lok Choi can be reached at email@example.com.