Associate Sports Editor
Two-out heroics late in game one and a quick shift in momentum stemming from controversial calls in game two led to a split for the Leopards as they took on the Pacific Lutheran Lutes in a doubleheader Monday.
La Verne took the first game in a 2-1 comeback win but gave up a three-run fifth inning to eventually lose 5-1 in another non-conference break.
“Today really taught us how to come together and play as a team,” junior catcher Daryn Schiveley said.
In game one, senior pitcher Delaney Baylor started off hot with four strikeouts and one hit through two but in the third allowed two infield bunts that led to the first run of the game for the visitors.
“This is the Delaney in the second half of the season that starts clicking,” head coach Julie Smith said.
“Now she’s pitching to where she was at the second half of last season.”
In the bottom of the fifth, senior shortstop Ashley Paul slapped a one-hopper into the center field fence and two more Leopards reached base, setting the stage for freshman Breanna English.
With two outs and the best chance to win in the game in front of her, English blasted the ball into the right-center field fence, sending home Paul and senior Mandy Brenner for the tying and go-ahead runs.
“With the bases loaded it’s tough for a freshman but each situation I’ve put her in like that she’s prevailed,” Smith said.
Game two proved to be more emotional than the first that included two questionable calls by the men in blue.
With the visitors holding a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth, a ground ball to Lutes second baseman Glenelle Nitta, who tossed it up to shortstop Lindsey Matsunaga, appeared to tag a sliding Tara Allis but was ruled safe to the outrage of Lutes coach Erin Van Nostrand.
On the next pitch, Matsunaga made a leaping catch on a line drive by Raven Freret that stole all of the Leopard momentum.
La Verne began the sixth inning by replacing starting pitcher Laura Olson with Carly Asher, who quickly gave up a single after another controversial call that involved Leopards right fielder Lisa Neu that took away a leadoff double.
The Lutes used their anger as another double allowed a runner to score, bringing the score to 3-1 before the final strike that took the game away from La Verne for good.
Nitta stepped to the plate and smacked a two-run homerun, creating a lead that the Leopards could not overcome.
“We didn’t take our good plays and turn them into momentum,” Paul said.
“They picked their energy up,” Neu said. “They took what they thought was bad and turned it into good energy and bounced back with their sticks.”
The Leopards were virtually even with the Lutes, collecting six hits to their seven, but leaving six runners on base proved to be the difference.
“We learned that we can’t leave runners on base when they’re in scoring position,” Schiveley said.
“That’s where we fell short, we didn’t answer back to them how we did in the first game,” Smith said.
The Leopards currently stand in second place with a 9-3 record but have a busy weekend in SCIAC, beginning with a doubleheader starting at 2 p.m. at seventh place Cal Lutheran today followed by a doubleheader beginning at noon at third place CMS on Saturday.
“We need to get into first place this week, that’s the message for the week and once we do that the next message will be to play like we’re in first place,” Smith said. “I don’t think anyone wants to play us.”
Daniel Hargis can be reached at email@example.com.