A solo homerun over the left field wall by junior catcher Jason Moralez capped a four-run sixth inning that helped the Leopard baseball team secure a series-opening 9-5 win over Occidental on Friday.
The Leopards split their doubleheader the next day, winning the first 9-4 before falling 14-3 in seven innings to end the series.
It was 4-3 at the start of the inning, but senior second baseman Zach Canfield’s single that came after junior Adrian Franco’s single got two runners on base with no outs and built momentum for La Verne.
“He (Canfield) has lots of great two-strike at bats,” head coach Scott Winterburn said. “He’s the one that sparked that inning.”
The Leopards got to work quickly, scoring two runs from a George Hanna double and left fielder Jacob Ludvik’s RBI double.
Ludvik crossed home plate a few plays later after Franco hit a sacrifice fly to right field.
“We knew we had to hit them hard,” Canfield said. “Against us they always stick around and hit us in the mouth. Yeah we were fired up for it.”
The Tigers gave it right back to La Verne by scoring three runs in the bottom of the first.
The scoring continued into the top of the second inning where the Leopards regained their lead and never looked back.
Canfield doubled in senior first baseman Ross Hebert and Hanna followed him up with a single of his own to drive Canfield home, opening the 4-3 advantage.
Both teams’ defenses locked down for the next four innings with a total of four hits allowed during that span.
Occidental earned two of those hits, who struggled to solve senior pitcher Nathan Rollon until the pivotal sixth inning.
Rollon went five innings, allowing nine hits and four earned runs to earn his second win of the season. After the scoring burst by La Verne, the Tigers responded immediately in the bottom half of the inning.
Three consecutive singles loaded the bases with no outs and forced Rollon off the mound, replaced by senior Alan Heide. Heide came in and limited the damage by getting Oxy center fielder Anthony Salsedo to ground out into a double play, allowing one run to score.
An RBI single brought home Oxy’s second run for the inning, but a pop out to Hanna ended any remaining threat.
“Alan Heide getting in and saving our bacon was the turning point,” Winterburn said.
Canfield knocked in junior first baseman Mason Stoltenberg for his fourth hit and second RBI in the top of the seventh inning, extending the lead to 9-5 and forcing the Tigers to play catch up with only nine outs to work with.
It seemed Occidental would respond again, drawing a walk from Heide to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning, prompting him to be replaced by senior Anthony Cerafice. Heide finished with one hit and one walk in one inning.
Cerafice suffocated the Tiger offense during the rest of the game. He struck out his first batter and allowed two singles, but with the help of Tiger junior Scott Hong getting caught stealing and a fielder’s choice on the next play, the threat ended.
Cerafice made quick work of the Occidental batters during the eighth, sending three consecutive batters to the bench, and the second one by way of a strikeout.
“I established my fastball early to challenge the hitters,” Cerafice said. “I knew I had to keep throwing with confidence.”
Cerafice allowed one hit in the ninth, but struck out two more batters, highlighted by striking out the final batter looking. He finished with three hits and four strikeouts in three innings of work for his first save of the season.
“The No. 1 thing the team needed from me was strikes,” Cerafice said. “I just had to keep pounding the strike zone.”
The team holds a 9-4 overall record, including a 5-1 record in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, good for first place.
They next play at 2:30 p.m. today at Redlands before returning to Mt. SAC for a doubleheader, the first game at 11 a.m. and the second at 2 p.m. tomorrow.
Daniel Hargis can be reached at email@example.com.