by Ed Castro
All the University of La Verne baseball team needs to do to end its season with an undefeated record in league competition is defeat the Caltech Beavers, something the Leopards have managed to do in the team’s 45 previous confrontations.
If the Leopards do win the three-game series, starting with a double-header with the Beavers on Saturday, April 25 at Caltech (the final game being on Leopard field the following Tuesday) the unprecedented accomplishment of finishing the· season with a perfect 18-0 league record will add more icing to ULV’s cake of success. However, an upset from Caltech is possible. But unfortunately for the Beavers, Sugar Ray Leonard used the last major miracle for this century last Monday night.
Leading up to the Caltech series, ULV had hammered its way past the Claremont-Mudd Stags in a three-game series Saturday and Tuesday, clinching for the Leos their 14th Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) title. The wins (6-3 and 9-4 in Saturday’s double-header and 12-3 in Tuesday’s contest) completed ULV’s fifth complete three-game sweep over SCIAC opponents this season.
In the first game of the double-header against the Stags, ULV took a first inning 2-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth, when CMC made a comeback. ULV’s starting pitcher Dale Buzzard walked Chris Dabrow, arid Mark Hoyt put him on second with a base hit. Darrin Hengiesbach tilled the bases with another single. Corey Ahart then doubled to left field, scoring Dabrow and Hoyt. The score was now tied at 2-2. The Stags took the lead on a sacrifice bunt-out by Kraig Johnson, bringing in Hengiesbach and giving CMC. a 3-2 lead.
The score remained the same going into ULV’s final at bat in the top of the seventh inning, when, as ULV’s head coach Owen Wright confessed, “the most dramatic” event in any game he has coached in his 25-year career took place.
After Mark Stutzman was walked, Dominick Copas took a line out of the movie “Rocky” and grunted a home run over and way above the left field fence, slicing the top of one of the 49-foot-tall trees that surround CMC’s stadium. The blast, a hit that nearly persuaded Copas to “send a bill to CMC for trimming its trees,” scored Stutzman as well as Copas to pull ULV ahead, 5-3.
The electricity which came with Copas’ homer was to be intensified as Robert Carreon then charged home plate and pummeled his fourth home run of the season, landing in the same left field location of the home run by Copas. “I was pumped when I was up to bat. I wanted to hit one just like Dominick’s, only it went higher and farther,” said Carreon, a native of Oceanside.
The home run clinic wasn’t over. Dale Buzzard threw his team members into a frenzy by helping his own cause by hitting the third consecutive home run of the inning, this one over center field. The score remained 6-3, as Buzzard held CMC at bay to win his fourth complete game and seventh win of the year.
“It was very dramatic. The home runs came in a thunderous variety and couldn’t have come at a more exciting moment in the game. It’s like the ability is always there, it just waits to pop in at the right times and do its stuff,” Wright said.
It seemed the beating in the first game was too much for Claremont to handle. ULV had no problems putting the second game away. “We were already relaxed. It seemed like we already beat them down by game time,” Copas said.
In the top of the fourth inning the Leopards lit up the scoreboard scoring six runs; CMC however, answered with a home run by Larry Schmedeka that brought in one run tor the Stags. CMC still trailed, 6-2.
In the top of the fifth inning, Copas doubled and then was knocked in by Carreon’s sacrifice fly. CMC answered again with two runs, putting the score at 7-4. In the seventh and eighth innings ULV added two runs making the final score 9-4 tor the Leo win. In the final inning Kevin Engle put on a fine display of pitching after he relieved Randy Mayabb and starting pitcher Jeff Abel. Engle, 6-4 overall and 5-0 in league play, made quick work of the final three hitters, striking out all three.
“It (the three home runs in the first game) took the wind out of them,” Wright said of CMC’s lackluster performance in the second game. “It was as it we dangled a carrot in front of their faces and then took it away at the last second.”
In the third game on Tuesday, the Leos pounded the Stags into submission with a 12-3 victory. The two teams traded off runs in the game’s early innings. CMC took a 2-0 lead with its first at bat with ULV bouncing back with a run in the same inning. ULV tied it at 2-2 in the bottom of the second and then took a 3-2 lead when Dominic Mistone scored off a Jim Wolfe single.
In the third, CMC’s Schmedeka doubled in Rick Jones to tie the game at 3-3. Carreon hit the first of his two home runs of the day with a solo shot into left field, giving ULV a 4-3 lead. The Leopards never looked back.
ULV added eight more runs, walking away with a 12-3 victory highlighted by Carreon’s second home run in the seventh inning.
Coach Wright said the key to his team’s success this year has been partly due to the excellent coaching staff which works with him. “Any person or thing that is successful is always surrounded by great workers. The coaches have done a great job this year.”