After scoring four early runs in a cold and windy first game of a three-game series against Chapman, a lack of hits in crucial moments down the stretch culminated in a 6-4 loss for the Leopard baseball team.
La Verne left five runners on base throughout the last five innings, including two that were in scoring position.
“We didn’t do a poor job tonight, we just lost the ball game,” head coach Scott Winterburn said.
The Leopards began the game on the right foot and took an early lead through an RBI single by senior left fielder Cody Hazel to bat in sophomore short stop George Hanna.
The next two innings were filled with runs by both teams.
Chapman regained a 2-1 lead after the second inning, but the visitors tied the game in the top of the third before conceding another run in the bottom half of the inning for a 3-3 tie.
“We had good AB’s (at-bats), one through nine, the first time around,” junior catcher Jason Moralez said.
“We were battling against a good pitcher with two strikes,” senior center fielder Jacob Ludvik said. “We were making him throw a lot of pitches.”
Chapman junior pitcher Brian Rauh, who was undefeated in college until March 10, hit five batters in seven innings to put runners on base.
Ludvik was hit on the head.
After the fourth inning La Verne was shut out and restricted to one hit for the remainder of the game.
“Their pitcher navigated through a tough start, then mowed us in the sixth and seventh,” Winterburn said.
The Leopards still managed to earn base runners through the hit batters, with six in total, and one walk earned in the ninth.
Getting the runners to touch home plate proved difficult.
“We stopped hitting when we got guys in scoring position,” Ludvik said.
“We lost our focus in the middle of the game,” Moralez said. “We weren’t having the same ABs.”
The Panthers took their final lead in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Two consecutive doubles initiated a pitching change for La Verne, who brought in senior Alan Heide for sophomore Phil Schick.
Schick finished with five hits, five earned runs, one strikeout and took the loss to move to 1-3 for the year.
Heide gave up the winning run later in the inning and the Panthers scored an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth.
The Panthers, who outhit the Leopards 13-4, continued to put runners on base for the remainder of the game but a solid defense and a mixture of specialty pitchers diffused every chance.
“I think our pitchers did better than in the past,” Moralez said. “In these games it’s good seeing improvement in the pen.”
After Heide seven more pitchers took the mound, even usual starting third baseman Ross Hebert, with some only facing a single batter.
“With good pitching we were in position to take the ball game,” Winterburn said. “I think this game came down to ABs.”
Hazel finished the day 2-5 with two RBIs at the plate while senior second baseman Zach Canfield finished 1-3 with two RBI’s.
The Leopards and Panthers split a doubleheader Monday. The Panthers won the first 10-3 and the Leopards earned a walk-off win in the second game on a double by Canfield that drove home junior Michael Stewart.
Ludvik and Canfield led La Verne with three hits for the day and Ludvik led with three RBI’s.
The Leopards suffered a loss Thursday against Kean University 16-7 at Azusa Pacific.
The Leopards currently hold a 14-9 overall record and are 9-3 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Conference. La Verne is currently the No. 1 team in SCIAC.
The Leopards next play at 3 p.m. Friday at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps before taking them on in a doubleheader starting at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday at Pomona-Pitzer.
Daniel Hargis can be reached at email@example.com.