Associate Sports Editor
Sixteen balls hit hard and straight at the defense proved to be the key difference in a 2-0 defeat for the Leopards at the hands of the Willamette Bearcats of Oregon at Pomona-Pitzer on Wednesday.
Only earning three hits and a total of seven base runners on the day was costly as the Bearcats used a six-hit outing to take the close victory during a short non-conference break for the Leopards.
“We had about 12 hit to people. We were hitting the ball hard and an inch to the right or left they’re base hits,” head coach Julie Smith said.
Although the score may not agree, the game was much tighter throughout, with key moments coming few and far between and solid defense on both sides.
Willamette took advantage of a leadoff double to start the game by centerfielder Sierra Lessel and a fielder’s choice to secure the go ahead run early in the game.
“The pitcher needs to not let the first person on and they’re learning that,” Smith said. “When your pitcher takes care of things from the first to last innings it lets us win.”
Freshman pitcher Laura Olson, who came into the game with a 2.22 ERA, allowed six hits, one earned run and finished the game with five strikeouts.
La Verne’s SCIAC-leading defense stumbled twice, allowing the winning run in the first and later an outfield miscommunication brought the second Bearcat run home in the fourth.
Willamette pitcher Alex Watilo finished the game with a two strikeout, one walk shutout, but did not suffocate the Leopards.
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Watilo provided La Verne’s best chance, giving up a base hit to junior infielder Tara Allis and another to freshman first baseman Raven Freret that put life into the breath of the Leopard hopeful.
But another groundball straight to the Bearcat first baseman took that breath right back.
“I think the whole team was hitting the ball hard but right at the defense,” senior centerfielder Mandy Brenner said.
“We hit the ball hard but it just wasn’t our day.”
The Leopards now have vital knowledge to take with them into the rest of their SCIAC season and look to fix the mistakes they made to improve their already successful ballclub.
“Score first and have momentum on our side. Win the first inning and each after that. Don’t let them take any momentum,” Olson said.
“Making sure we take care of the little things like what happened in the outfield. She needs to call the ball sooner,” Smith said.
“This was a game where they didn’t do much more than us, only one earned. I felt we hit the ball harder.”
With the loss, La Verne fell to 6-7 against non-conference opponents. But the team looks to improve its already impressive 7-3 conference record at noon tomorrow with a doubleheader against fifth place Occidental at Wheeler Park.
Daniel Hargis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.