by David Sutton
Many athletes dream of the day when their team is in the position to win a championship. For the La Verne softball team, the dream of being in such a position became reality last Saturday.
La Verne needed to sweep the Cal Lutheran Regals to clinch the Southern California Intercollegiate Conference (SCIAC) championship outright. A spilt would tie them with the Regals.
After losing the first game, 5-4, the Leos were in a must-win situation in game two; and they had to win without their pitching ace, Sharnae Lancaster, who was injured in game one and replaced by freshman Amber Hall.
The Regals jumped out to an early lead in the first inning when Shani Smyth hit a homerun over the center field fence to give the Regals a 3-0 lead.
La Verne did not waste any time scoring, either. After being walked, sophomore Jenna Bowman moved into scoring position by stealing second and third base. Sophomore Laurie Grey laced a single over the third baseman’s head to drive in Bowman. The Leos were back in the game.
Cal Lutheran’s offensive machine cranked up again in the second inning. After a single and a walk, Bekkah Snider moved the runners over to second and third with a sacrifice bunt. Aimee Snider drove both runners in with a single. The Regals lead, 5-3.
Hall settled down in the third inning and retired the side.
In the fourth, the Regals manufactured a run. The threat of another was put to rest as Grey ran under a fly ball in short left field. The Regals led, 6-2.
After two quick outs in the fifth, it looked as if the Leos would get out of the inning unscathed. Hall gave up two consecutive walks and when Snider came to the plate, no one knew what she was going to do. One swing of the bat is all it took. Snider sent the ball over the fence for a three-run blast to give the Regals a 9-2 lead.
La Verne refused to quit. In the fifth inning, freshman Elizabeth Lomeli’s single moved Grey into scoring position. With the bases loaded sophomore Carmen Diaz’s fielder’s choice drove in Grey, to cut into the Regals lead to 9-3.
Lancaster returned to pitch for the Leos in the sixth inning. She retired all six batters she faced in her two innings of work. The Leos’ last six batters were retired in order.
The Regals won the game, 9-3, and clinched the SCIAC championship.
Head Coach Julie Kline said, “We were out-played today.”
The season itself was very successful for the Leos.
La Verne’s long-term future is bright, as eight of the nine starters this season were either freshmen or sophomores.
Kline expected a good season out of her team. “I thought we had a lot of talent. I thought we could contend.” The Leos were contenders and finished the season with a 19-5 record in SCIAC and 25-11 record overall.
The Leos had four players selected to the all-SCIAC first team and two to the second team.
La Verne will find out Sunday if it will receive a post-season bid. Even though the Leos have been ranked as high as third in the west region, it is still possible for them to get overlooked for the play-offs.
A selection committee chooses who goes and who does not. With La Verne in the region that includes every Division III school west of the Mississippi River, there could be some problems.