The baseball team battled it out against Occidental, losing two out of three games Friday and Saturday.
Friday’s game seemed like a sure fire win with La Verne leading 5-1 until the eighth inning, when Occidental came back with seven runs and tallied three more in the ninth to beat the Leopards 11-5.
Game one of the double header Saturday was a close match that went into extra innings, but Occidental came through in the 11th to score the winning run on an error, 4-3.
La Verne was able to salvage the series and avoid a sweep with a late inning comeback in game two.
Sophomore first baseman Tim Ralston cleared the bases with a double down the right field line, bringing in senior outfielder Nolan Henley, senior outfielder Matt Ashby and sophomore designated player Pedro Espinoza.
“I think after the tough loss Friday it was important to come out confident Saturday,” pitcher Brett Early said. “We should have won both games, but the losses came down to hitting.”
“As a team, we always believe that we can beat anyone we face at any given time,” senior catcher Michael Stewart said. “We do tend to feel pressure when things aren’t going according to plan and this is something we need to change. We need to have the mindset that no matter what the score, we will find a way to win.”
Saturday’s win marked head coach Scott Winterburn’s 300th win with the Leopards.
Winterburn said he was so absorbed in the game that he was not aware that he had reached the milestone.
“We were losing the third of a three game series, so we were really just trying to get back in the series and salvage a win,” Winterburn said. “So once the ninth inning started happening, that was about as much excitement as we had all series and it was fun.”
“Besides the players on the team I couldn’t ask for better coaches,” sophomore pitcher Sean Beckman said.
“I have been very lucky to have Coach Winterburn as a coach now as well as our other coaches,” Beckman said. “They expect greatness from us in everything that we do, because they know it is possible.”
In the last game of the weekend against No. 2 Linfield College, the Leopards lost 13-1.
La Verne beat the Wildcats in one of the first games of the season Feb. 7, 6-0, but Sunday Linfield came back with a vengeance.
La Verne’s only run came in the bottom of the eighth when Henley, junior outfielder Josh Surdo and senior third baseman Mason Stolenberg all singled to load the bases.
Ralston then took one for the team and was hit by a pitch, allowing Surdo to cross home plate.
The Occidental series forced the coaching staff to use a lot of pitchers, so they had to improvise when it came to pitching, which included sending catcher Jason Moralez to the mound for an inning.
“For Moralez to go out there and throw one of our only shutout innings, against the No. 2 team in the country that can really swing the bat, shows that he is pretty decent,” said Winterburn.
“It was a good experience,” Moralez said. “It was good to be able to compete for them and help out the team.”
During the game, junior shortstop George Hanna was injured when a routine grounder took a bad hop and hit him in the face. Hanna had to leave the game to receive stitches, but he should not miss any games.
“We worked hard this weekend, but didn’t quite get the edge in a couple close games,” Stolenberg said.
“We have to come out with confidence and determination in our next games against Cal Lutheran,” freshman pitcher Alec Garcia said.
“We suffered a hard couple losses over this past weekend that will definitely motivate us to come out next versus Cal Lutheran,” said Beckman.
La Verne will play Cal Lutheran at 7 p.m. Friday at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut.
Saturday they have a doubleheader starting with game one at 11 a.m. and game two at 2:30 p.m. at Cal Lutheran’s Sparky Anderson Field.
Kat Simonelli can be reached at email@example.com.