The softball team swept its doubleheader conference opener against Cal Lutheran on Monday at Wheeler Park with scores of 3-2 and 6-4.
The team got a few days extra rest when the game was postponed due to rain on Saturday.
After a victorious doubleheader against Chapman last weekend, the team was prepared to come out strong for the conference opener.
“Today was huge, winning the first games puts us up there; it makes our road a little easier,” head coach Julie Smith said. “We’re going to be a contender.”
Cal Lutheran freshman outfielder Kayla Sakamoto was first at bat and walked. La Verne senior pitcher, Delaney Baylor shut down Cal Lutheran in the first inning by striking out two batters and grounding out one.
On an error by Cal Lutheran’s shortstop, La Verne’s junior shortstop Tara Allis reached first base but was left on base when junior leftfielder Dee Dee Burns popped up.
In the fourth inning Burns scored the first run of the game on an error by Cal Lutheran’s centerfielder.
Cal Lutheran scratched back in the sixth inning with a homerun to right center by senior outfielder, Lizzie Novak.
In the bottom of the sixth, La Verne came out swinging with Burns matching Cal Lutheran’s homerun with one of her own with to left center, making the score 2-1.
Cal Lutheran came back in the top of the seventh, tying the score, 2-2, when right fielder Katelyn Downing scored on an unearned run after two La Verne errors.
La Verne did not want to settle for a tie and dug down deep in the bottom of the seventh.
Junior catcher Daryn Schiveley fouled out to third base. Freshman third baseman, Breanna English popped out to the shortstop for the second out.
Freshman third baseman Candice Nunez stepped up to home plate to pinch hit for freshman second baseman Arielle Johnson, and got a single to right field.
Then in the last play of the game, designated hitter Jackie Duran got on first base after she pinch hit for senior outfielder Lisa Neu and advanced to second base on an error by Cal Lutheran’s centerfielder, sending Nunez home to score and sealing the game 3-2.
“The highest point of both games was when Jackie came through with the hit and scored Candace,” Neu said.
Cal Lutheran’s Sakamoto led off the game with a single followed by a walk to Novak and both scored later in the inning on a double by sophomore shortstop Geri Jensen. Jensen scored on a double by junior infielder Sara Lichtsinn making the score 3-0 before La Verne even had a chance to come up to bat.
La Verne scratched their way back in the game with Duran scoring a run in the second. Allis hit a solo blast in the third, and senior outfielder Mandy Brenner also homered in the fourth tying the game 3-3. Cal Lutheran came back with one run in the fifth by Sakamoto.
In the bottom of the fifth Burns scored on a double by freshman first basemen Raven Freret. Neu pinch ran and scored on a single by Duran. Senior infielder Kaitlin Ward pinch ran, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Johnson making the final score 6-4.
“We pushed hard today, we pushed through. We executed, we worked and got the job done,” Brenner said.
La Verne finished the first game with three runs on five hits, stranded four runners on base and gave up three errors. Cal Lutheran finished with two runs on four hits, stranded seven runners on base and gave up five errors.
In the second game, La Verne finished with six runs on ten hits, and stranded eight base runners. Cal Lutheran finished with four runs on six hits and stranded five runners on base. Both teams played an error free game.
Last year La Verne won the SCIAC tournament and made it to regionals and lost to the first and second place teams.
“The key to our success is self-motivation. It’s expected to get to regionals, so the girls work hard and practice on their own,” Smith said.
The Leopards swept Howard Payne on Thursday with a 4-1 victory in the first game and a 7-4 victory in the second game.
In the second game, the Leopards used a strong fourth inning. scoring four runs on four hits and emerged victorious with a total of 13 hits.
La Verne will face Claremont Mudd-Scripps at noon on Saturday at Wheeler Park.
Krista Franceschini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.