by Tom Miller
“It ain’t over, till it’s over” is an old cliche made famous by Yankee Hall of Famer, Yogi Berra. What the quote by Berra best describes is the University of La Verne baseball team’s present situation.
Needing to win all of it’s remaining league games to win the league title, the defending league champion Leos took a step in the right direction sweeping the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens in a weekend, 8-3, 8-1 and 16-5.
In the opener at Leopard Field, Friday, April 8, the host Leos tell behind early, 3-0, after four-and-a-half innings. With spirits sagging tor La Verne and Sagehen hurler Chris Nelson handcuffing the ULV hitters, many La Verne fans could see the end of the Leopard season.
Pomona showed why it is a 5-19 ballclub in the bottom of the fifth inning. Leopard catcher Gregg Ratkovic was hit by a pitch, and outfielder Jim Wolfe was his designated runner.
With two outs, Wolfe stole second base, while pitcher Nelson walked the Leos’ designated hitter Eric Smith to put runners on first and second base.
Leopard right fielder Dominic Mistone, who is the top Leo batter at .404, came through with a double, scoring Wolfe. The relay to get Wolfe at the plate was thrown into the dirt by the Sagehens first baseman Eric Rivas. Wolfe was safe and Smith also scored as the throw deflected into the Leopard dugout, cutting the Pomona lead to 3-2.
Ron Hubel, a junior transfer from Chapman College, tied the game at 3-3 with an RBI double. Hubel leads the Leopards with 37 RBIs and eight home runs.
“Hubel has helped us tremendously, he has mental toughness.” said ULV head baseball coach Owen Wright.
A single by Dom Copas scored Hubel with the Leos fourth run of the inning.
Dale Buzzard, the senior all everything for the Leopards, came through with his third straight hit of the game into left field to extend the marathon frame for the Leos.
“I can’t say too much about my hitting so far (.316),” said Buzzard. “I would like to do a lot better, and I haven’t shown much power,”
The final blow of the inning came off the bat of Leopard center fielder Eric Wood. Wood hit a long fly ball down the left field toward Sagehen outfielder Paul Thompson. At first it appeared Thompson would make an easy catch in foul territory, but the ball got caught up in the swirling La Verne wind and moved suddenly toward fair ground. Thompson muffed the ball tor a two-base error, while both Copas and Buzzard hustled around for the fifth and sixth runs of the inning tor La Verne.
Chip Porter, who had pitched a solid five innings tor La Verne, was replaced in the top of the sixth by Tim Wells. Only one of the three runs given up by Porter was earned, while striking out six Sagehens.
“He (Porter) was developing a blister,” said Wright. “He was trying to pitch with a Band-Aid which is not allowed.”
Wells, a junior left-hander from Baldwin Park, was up to the task as he held Pomona to no runs and just three hits over the final tour innings to pick up the save, his second of the year.
The Leos completed the scoring in the eighth, with catcher Don Motts reaching base on an error by the shortstop Greg Silver. Mistone singled, Hubel doubled to score Motts, and Copas singled to score Mistone with the final run of the game.
Silver led the Pomona 11-hit attack with a pair of doubles. Buzzard finished with a 3-for-3 day, Hubel went 3-for-5, and Mistone hit 2-for-5.
On Saturday, April 9, the Leopards traveled to Pomona tor double-header, but the change of cities didn’t improve the Sagehens luck.
The Leopards went with their “top gun” Dale Buzzard for game one. The ace right-hander from Stroudsburg, Pa. came into the game with a 4-0 and two shutouts.
But it was the powerful 5-foot, 6-inch left fielder, Wolfe, who started the game off with a jolt with a home run.
“He’s (Wolfe) a good example of what weight training can do for a ballplayer,” said Wright.
That was all Buzzard needed as he mowed down the· Pomona batters with his blazing fastball. Buzzard gave up just three singles and struck out 11 Sagehens in six innings.
“This year I’m throwing much more consistently,” said Buzzard. “The off season pitching I did really helped.”
In the third inning the Leos were able to increase their lead to 2-0, as the Pomona pitching staff had· a wild streak, walking four La Verne batters to force in a run.
The Leopards broke game one open in the fifth when third baseman Hubel was hit with a pitch. Buzzard’s double scored Hubel, and Wood’s single scored Buzzard. A single by Motts and a walk by second baseman Mike Kirk loaded tire bases. Wolfe’s double scored two more runs, and a wild pitch scored the Leopards fifth run of the inning.
Pomona broke up Buzzard’s chance tor a third shutout, scoring an unearned run in the seventh.
The Leos made the final score, 8-1, on singles by Smith, Rod Wright and Chris Beyer.
Jeff Abel, a senior southpaw from Upland, wrapped up the game for Buzzard on the mound, throwing a scoreless eighth and ninth inning for the Leos.
In game two of the Saturday doubleheader, La Verne combined the pitching of Scott Root and Paul Janssen to hold the Sagehens to five runs, while the visiting Leos cranked out tour home runs to sweep Pomona, 16-5.
The Leopards’ Hubel, Wolfe, Wood, and Ray Cherney all hit homers to make the final game of the series a rout. Wright had a 3-for-4 game, Hubel hit 2-for-3, and Smith hit 2-for-4.
In the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SCIAC), Claremont-Mudd still holds the top spot with an 11-1 record. Whittier is 9-3, while La Verne and Redlands hold on with 6-3 marks.
“It’s a tough order to win all the rest of our league games, but it’s nothing that we didn’t do last year,” said Wright. “We just have to keep hitting and get some luck. It’s all up to us.”
The Leos resume SCIAC play today with a 2:30 p.m. game at Leopard Field. Saturday, April 16, they travel to Redlands tor a double-header starting at 11 a.m.