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Leopards declawed by Wildcats

Outfielder Amanda Copas throws the ball back to second base during the second inning of the first game against Linfield College March 20. La Verne lost both games, 9-0 and 6-1. / photo by Katherine Careaga

Outfielder Amanda Copas throws the ball back to second base during the second inning of the first game against Linfield College March 20. La Verne lost both games, 9-0 and 6-1. / photo by Katherine Careaga

Karleigh Neff
Staff Writer

The softball team battled nationally ranked Linfield College Wednesday at Wheeler Park, but fell short in both games, losing the first game 9-0 and the second 6-1.

The first game was not the best for the Leopards as they had six errors, three of which came in the top of the second when Linfield scored its first two runs.

The Wildcats’ starting pitcher Karina Paavola was able to strike out three Leopard hitters in the bottom of the first and the second.

The momentum continued for the Wildcats in the third as they scored another four runs, making the score 6-0.

“We have a lot to work on,” Leopard head coach Julie Smith said. “When we have too many little errors and things going wrong, it is hard to win a game.”

The errors continued for the Leopards in the top of the fourth when Linfield catcher McKenna Spieth drove in another run, giving the Wildcats a 7-0 lead.

La Verne fought back in the bottom of the fifth when third baseman Candice Nuñez hit a single to right field, followed by a walk for outfielder Laura Olson.

An illegal pitch by the Wildcats advanced the two Leopard runners on base, but a strike out of shortstop Danielle Vela would result in three outs and another scoreless inning for the Leopards.

“We needed help on defensive,” Leopard starting pitcher Katherine Kibbe said. “But either way, offensive and defensive, we need to pick each other up and neither one of us did that.”

The Wildcats scored the last two runs in the top of the sixth when outfielder Megan Wallo hit a single, and third baseman Karleigh Prestianni doubled, earning two RBIs and a 9-0 sweep.

“We definitely could have done better,” Leopard first baseman Raven Freret said. “Our fielding was off and we were just not handling the ball well.”

The second game was slightly better for the Leopards, but they still committed four errors and scored only one run.

The first runs by Linfield came in the top of the second as Speith doubled, sending two Wildcats all the way home for the RBIs.

The Wildcat momentum continued in third, when second baseman Ashley Garcia hit a two-run homer, making the score 5-0.

In the seventh inning, both teams earned one run. The Linfield run came from Wallo after she hit a double to deep center field.

The Leopards’ one run came from outfielder Amanda Copas, who scored on a Vela triple in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Smith said the team needs a tighter bond and more focus. The girls need to improve on certain things like communication and trust.

“We gave them way too many opportunities,” Smith said. “Our defense really hurt us today and we made too many errors.”

Linfield has been ranked No.1 nationally for many years before this year, Smith said. The last time Linfield and La Verne played was four years ago, and La Verne won.

“Our team now can beat these ranked teams easily,” Smith said, “But today we did not rise to the occasion like I was hoping.”

La Verne made up for Wednesday’s losses by sweeping No.11 Redlands, 5-1 and 14-4, in a doubleheader Saturday. The Leopards went error free in both games.

The wins over the Bulldogs moved the Leopards to fourth place with a 9-7 record in the Southern California Inter­collegiate Athletic Conference and an overall record of 17-9.

Now the Leopards prepare to face Pomona-Pitzer for their next SCIAC game at 2 p.m. on the road Friday.

Karleigh Neff can be reached at karleigh.neff@laverne.edu.

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