by Jesse Steinberg
Even rain delays could not stop the University of La Verne baseball team from moving closer to its 14th Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) championship in the last 16 years.
Going into last weekend, the Leos were tied for first place with the University of Redlands. Both teams entered the showdown with 6-0 league records.
The Leopards swept the doubleheader against Redlands on Sunday, 7-3 and 10-7. On Monday, the Leos traveled to Redlands to beat the Bulldogs 10-2.
The sweep moved La Verne to 15-10 overall and 9-0 in conference.
The Leopards will host the Whittier Poets tomorrow in a double-header starting at noon.
In the first game against the Bulldogs, La Verne jumped out to an early one-run lead in the bottom of the third inning. But that was not enough as it had to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The Leopards jumped on Redlands’ starter Don Grenda in the sixth, for six runs on five hits, one walk and one error by Grenda.
The big blow in the inning was Dale Buzzard’s two-run home run. With Jim Wolfe on first base, Buzzard crushed a 3-1 pitch over the left center field fence to tie the game at 3-3.
Second baseman Eric Smith singled in the winning run, after center fielder Dominic Mistone singled and stole second.
Buzzard pitched his fourth complete game of the season and moved his record to 5-0 on the season. Buzzard struck out six hitters while walking only one in the seven-inning game.
The second game was not quite as easy for the Leopards. Starter Kevin Engle struggled in the first inning as he gave up back-to-back solo home runs.
The offense gave Engle support, as the team scored three runs in the bottom of the second, and one in the third to move to a 4-2 lead.
In the top of the fourth Redlands scored three runs to regain the lead 5-4, but the Leos were not going to let that last long. On the first pitch of the bottom of fourth inning, first baseman Dominick Copas launched his seventh homer of the season to tie the game, 5-5.
The Leos scored one in the sixth and four in the seventh to take a 10-5 into the ninth inning.
Engle again had some trouble as he allowed two runs in the ninth to finish out the scoring at 10-7.
Engle picked up his fourth win of the season, after pitching his fourth complete game. In the game, Engle allowed only three earned runs, while striking out six and walking only one batter.
In the third game of the series, La Verne jumped out early, as Buzzard crushed an 0-1 over the right field fence to put La Verne up 3-0 in the first inning.
The Leos added another run in the top of the fourth before allowing a Redlands runner to cross the plate.
Redlands scored a run in both the fourth and fifth innings.
La Verne answered the Bulldogs with two runs in the sixth and four runs in the seventh. The big hit in the seventh was Rod Wright’s triple that drove in two runs.
Redlands threatened in the bottom of the seventh, after pitcher Jeff Abel walked the first three batters. Abel battled back getting the next batter to fly out to left field, and striking out the next two batters to take both the bark and the bite out of the Bulldogs.
Abel pitched his first complete game of the season en route to his fourth win against no losses. He struck out four batters while walking only three (all of which were in the third inning).
In the third game La Verne scored 10 runs on 17 hits, while the defense played flawlessly behind Abel.
In the game, catcher Mike Muraca picked up four hits in five at bats in the game, while both left fielder Jim Wolfe and right fielder Robert Carreon both collected three hits in five at bats.
Leading the offense in the three-game series was Buzzard, who collected five hits in 12 at bats with three runs scored and five RBIs. Catcher Mike Muraca added seven hits in 14 at bats while scoring five runs and driving in three. Wright collected six hits in 12 at bats, while right fielder Robert Carreon picked seven hits in 13 at bats (including a home run in the second game).