by Ed Castro
If the University of La Verne baseball team has any hopes of winning a game in post-season action this year, it will first have to cure its problem of not being able to beat teams that are not part of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC).
This past weekend the Leos, 27-18 overall, undefeated in SCIAC competition but owners of a 9-18 non-conference record, were dealt two more non-conference losses from the University of California, San Diego Tritons in ULV’s final action of its regular season in a double-header, 5-2 and 7-0.
In the contest, ULV was up against both UCSD and its fans, who played a big part in the team’s victory over the Leos. “Our players let the fans get to them,” Robert Carreon said of UCSD’s fan support, “Instead of letting it go in one ear and out the other, we let their taunts stay in our minds,” he said.
“We’re just as good a ball club as they are. Every time we had a batter at the plate, the fans were rousing him the whole time. We’re going into the playoffs as a better and different ball club. We’re going to concentrate more and keep our minds on the game,” Carreon said.
Whether ULV overcomes its battle with UCSD’s fans, another problem ULV cannot overlook has been its year-long inability to defeat non-conference opponents. And since ULV will face these same Tritons on May 15, 16 and 17 in the NCAA Division Ill Western Regional playoffs, a solution Leo’s inability to win outside of SCIAC needs to be conjured up quickly. If not, a brief playoff appearance will be unavoidable.
The task of winning the SCIAC championship, according to Head Coach Owen Wright, was the “number one priority” for the Leos this season: “The team concentrated all of its efforts into winning the title,” Wright said.
Along with having a team with only two seniors in its starting lineup (UCSD has six seniors in its starting lineup), ULV’s confrontations with scholarship schools such as Azusa Pacific University and California Lutheran and Sacramento Colleges did not help ULV’s win-loss column.
“In league games we don’t see very good pitchers, but in conference we see much better and faster ones,” Carreon said. “It’s kind of hard to adjust from pitchers in league who throw 80 mph pitches to pitchers in non-conference games who throw much faster than that. It makes a difference,” Carreon said.
Going into the best of five game series against UCSD, Rod Wright leads ULV in both hits (63) and runs (39). Dominick Copas leads the team in home runs (11), while Robert Carreon is close behind with eight. Copas also leads the team in doubles (15) while Mark Stutzman and Dominic Mistone each have 11 of their own. Copas and Buzzard lead the team with 40 RBIs each.
Wright said his team will have to be in top form to defeat UCSD. “They (UCSD) played really well. They came through when they had to. We are going to need a good balance of good hitting, pitching and fielding if we are to win,” he said.