by Landus Rigsby
The long season finally comes to a end as the University of La Verne Leopards closed the 1997 season by losing their last nine games.
“It [the season] wasn’t a total loss. We had a very young team. We were set back with academic difficulties and injuries,” said ULV head coach Owen Wright.
ULV hosted the La Verne Tournament last Saturday and Sunday at Ben Hines Field against Redlands, Chapman and UC San Diego.
The first game on Saturday was against the Bulldogs of Redlands, in which the Leopards fell by one run, 12-11.
La Verne had a very strong first inning, establishing a 4-0 lead behind the hitting of sophomore designated hitter David Riffle (.343, five home runs) and sophomore first baseman Eric Britton (.360, 14 RBI). Key singles by freshman center fielder Andrew Woolsey and sophomore left fielder Gary Griffith brought in more runs to gain an early advantage.
Five more runs were added in the fourth inning as Riffle and Griffith blasted back-to-back home runs breaking open the game and extending La Verne’s lead to 9-4 at the end of the inning.
The Leopards went on to score only two runs the rest of the way. Redlands scored five fifth inning runs and the score was tied in the ninth inning at 11-11. ULV freshman shortstop Seth Halverson got his second pitching appearance and gave up two singles, and Redlands a close 12-11 victory.
Senior pitcher Andy Loya (1-7, 8.12) went five and a third innings, giving up 10 runs, 12 hits and four home runs.
“We’ve played real good defense, but our real problems have been the lack of pitching depth and leaving too many people on base,” said Wright about the season.
The second game of the day against the Chapman Panthers was a better defensive game, but the Leopards allowed their early lead to once again vanish, giving up a 3-0 lead to lose 4-3.
ULV opened up the first inning with three runs capped off by a RBI single by senior right fielder Seth Marrs (.393, five home runs). Chapman responded with three eighth inning runs and held off La Verne with a one-run victory.
“Seth Marrs had a truly outstanding year,” said Wright. “Marrs and Brock [Whobrey, a senior] have been the leaders and have had outstanding years.”
Marrs and Britton were named to the All-SCIAC team. Marrs received first team honors and Britton, second team.
ULV junior pitcher Maynard McClarrinon (4-7, 5.23) pitched eight innings giving up four earned runs, six hits and striking out three.
Sunday fared no better, with La Verne losing two games to UC San Diego, 13-12, 9-5.
In the first game, the Leopards opened up the contest in the sixth inning with a Britton single and a home run by sophomore catcher Armando Hernandez, giving ULV a slim four-run lead going into the seventh inning.
The best offensive surge of the weekend came in the seventh inning for the Leopards, kicked off with a single by junior third baseman Robert Perea. Marrs followed with a huge RBI triple, and freshman David LaPeer kept the inning alive with a double. Add two singles courtesy of Hernandez and Woolsey, and the Leopards were heading into the eighth inning with a strong 12-2 lead.
Disaster struck ULV in the last two innings as the Tritons ran off 11 runs to overtake the Leopards 13-12 in the first encounter. Freshman pitcher Andrew Davis entered the game in the ninth inning and gave up a crucial grand slam to Hill of UC San Diego.
Starting ULV senior pitcher Sean Caldwell (4-6, 5.24) pitched a total of eight innings, giving up five runs, nine hits and striking out three batters.
“We didn’t have the bullpen strength to stop them. That’s where a good pitching staff comes in,” said Wright.
With the heartbreaking loss on its mind, La Verne came out flat in the second game against the Tritons and fell behind early. By the fifth inning, the Tritons were blowing out the Leopards 7-0.
The Leopards decided to mix up the line-up, Marrs pitching three, Riffle throwing four, and sophomore infielder Chad Tucker pitched the last two innings. UC San Diego eventually emerged victorious 9-5.
The only spark for the Leopards in the second game was a Riffle home run in the ninth inning.
Now that the season is over, Wright looks forward to next year’s team.
“Some of our young players came a long way. Next year, they’ll already have a year under their belts.”