The Leopards were unable to defend their SCIAC title from last season finishing the season with an overall record of 22-16 and 16-12 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
La Verne placed fifth in SCIAC and did not qualify for the conference tournament, but the players were able to gain a lot from this season.
“If I could take anything from it, it is that nothing is handed to you,” catcher Jason Moralez said. “Every season is a new season with new teams, new players and new challenges. We had a lot of opportunities, but we lost a few tight games.”
But they did not lose all of them, one of tight games that they were able to win was their final regular season game; a 4-3 extra inning win against Whittier on April 30.
Junior centerfielder Josh Surdo drove in the winning run in the top of the 11th to give junior pitcher Phil Schick the win in relief.
Schick finished the season with a 6-5 record and is one of six seniors that hope to bring back the SCIAC title to La Verne.
Another future senior is pitcher Kevin Knight, who was named to First Team All-SCIAC and finished with a 6-3 record and 1.94 ERA.
Knight turned in three of La Verne’s five complete games, including his five-hit performance in the Leopards’ 2-1 victory over nationally-ranked Kean University March 8.
“It’s a great honor,” Knight said. “It’s a little bittersweet because we didn’t take home the SCIAC championship, but it’s a good feeling to know that all of the hard work over the years is starting to pay off.”
Junior shortstop George Hanna, Knight’s Villa Park High School teammate, earned All-SCIAC Second Team honors. This is his second year in a row as an All-Conference selection.
Hanna batted .412 overall and .404 in conference play. He ranked No. 8 nationally with a .538 on-base percentage and led La Verne in hits, runs scored, RBI and walks.
“He was tough all year,” Schick said. “Mentally and physically he just never backed down from any fight, even when he was hurt. He led the team by example.”
Head coach Scott Winterburn added to his growing legacy by winning his 300th game as the Leopard coach in a 6-5 win against Occidental on April 13.
The plan for constructing a new Leopards’ baseball stadium is under way. The stadium will seat around 500 people and will be located on Wheeler Avenue, less than five minutes away from the main campus.
However, there is no time table on when the stadium will be ready for use.
“It will be exciting for new players and alumni for La Verne baseball to come home to a new stadium,” Moralez said.
The Leopards are also looking ahead to more than just a new stadium.
“As a team we are going to be more aggressive and do things to shut down hitters,” Knight said. “We are going to be more competitive.”
“My focus is how I can be an all-American and how I can help my team win the SCIAC title next year,” he said.
Julian Mininsohn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.