by Heather Morales
In its final bid for the playoffs, the University of La Verne’s baseball team took third place in the Leo Invitational last weekend, defeating the University of Redlands 11-7 on Sunday afternoon and Chapman University on Saturday night, 4-2.
La Verne finished the season 29-11, 15-6 in SCIAC, finished third in SCIAC and is looking to next season, unless they receive a surprise bid on Saturday for the playoffs.
“We have some good people coming back,” said head coach Owen Wright.
Losing to Redlands on Saturday morning 3-1 and UC San Diego 10-3 on Sunday morning, was probably the last straw in the Leopards’ quest for post-season play.
“We were not able to make the regionals,” said Wright after Sunday’s victory over Redlands.
In the second game against the Bulldogs on Sunday, La Verne’s defense kept Redlands off the bases and allowed only one run in the first three innings. Freshman pitcher Ernie Magaña struck out the entire side in the second.
The Leopards were able to score their first run of the game in the fourth, when freshman third baseman Eric Britton singled in senior catcher Bobby Sherwood, who was on with a solid line drive double to right/center field.
Hitting his second home run of the season, senior center fielder Steven Reyes smashed a grand slam over the right field fence in the fourth to make the score 5-1.
“I had two strikes and I wanted to hit the ball. I didn’t think it was going to go over,” said Reyes. “It felt great to just go out there and hit a home run.”
Another home run by senior first baseman Pat Murray brought in three more runs making the score 8-1.
In that fourth inning, La Verne sent 15 batters to the plate and scored 11 runs. They would be La Verne’s only runs of the game.
Redlands also scored the bulk of its runs in the fourth inning when it brought in three more to make it 11-4.
Scoring the final run of the game for the Bulldogs, center fielder Ron Battle stole both second and third base, then the designated hitter Justin Ott singled him in. It was not enough for Redlands to come close to the Leopards.
It was just the opposite in the game against UCSD on Sunday morning. Senior Jeff Doen started the game but only pitched one and 2/3 innings, giving up eight runs on six hits and striking out two before junior Tom Barazza came in to relieve him.
In the second, the Tritons scored 10 runs and sent 14 batters to the plate.
“It was the worst one inning I’ve seen in the 13 years that I’ve been here,” said Wright.
The Leopard defense kept the Tritons from scoring and off the bases for the next seven innings.
“We had eight shut-out innings and it [the second inning] should never have happened,” said Wright.
While La Verne was keeping UCSD off the bases, it struggled to score any runs. It was not until the ninth inning, when Britton doubled in Murray and junior shortstop Brock Whobrey, that La Verne was put on the scoreboard. Britton scored off a single by senior left fielder David Madrid, but it was not enough.
In its win against Chapman College Saturday, La Verne defeated the Panthers, 4-2.
“We had a great game against Chapman. We played well and we won all three against Chapman this season,” said Wright.
The Leopards took the lead when Murray scored a run in the first inning and freshman center fielder Kevin Johnstone scored in the second.
Chapman tied the game in the sixth while holding the Leopards to two until the ninth inning.
Reyes broke the tie with a two-run home run in the ninth to give La Verne the win 4-2.
“I was thinking ‘get a hit and hit the ball hard.’ It didn’t cross my mind that I was going to hit one [home run],” said Reyes.
“He got what he deserved,” said Madrid about Reyes’ home runs.
It was a slow start for both teams during the first game against Redlands. No runs were scored by either team and the bases were empty until the sixth inning when Battle led off with a solo home run for the Bulldogs.
Ott scored another run when designated hitter Richy Cummings singled him in to make the score 2-0.
Ryan Boggs added a solo home run in the seventh, making it 3-0.
The Leopards scored their one run in the ninth when Sherwood, who was on with a single, was singled in by freshman third baseman Robert Aguirre.
UCSD defeated Chapman 7-3 on Sunday night to win the tournament.
The six ULV players who will be graduating or have no NCAA eligibility left are Reyes, Murray, Madrid, Sherwood, Doen and senior second baseman Mike Smith.
“It would have been harder to walk away if we hadn’t won the national championship last year,” said Madrid about leaving the team.
Wearing the national championship crown on their heads, the Leopards had some tough competition this year.
“It’s a lot harder to have a good year like we’ve had when you have every team gunning for you, using their best players just to make their year better,” said Reyes.