by Jennifer Parsons
What a difference a year makes for the University of La Verne baseball team.
With last year’s overall record of 12-28 and Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) record of 9-12, the ULV baseball team, according to head coach Owen Wright, has “no where to go but up.”
One reason the Leopards are headed in the right direction is the fact that Wright, in his 36th year of coaching baseball, is three victories away from his 600th win. He previously worked at Elizabethtown for 21 years and has worked at ULV for 15 years. This year’s version of the Leopards is the 70th intercollegiate athletic team Wright has coached.
“I really think we’ll do better,” Wright said, who has a combined record of 936-640-45 in both coaching baseball and soccer. “It has been a La Verne tradition to do better and last season was the worst I have had by far.”
Wright attributes this to many elements, some of which were the lack of depth and the pitchers’ season ending early due to injuries.
“Even though last year was a really disappointing year, I think it’s really going to motivate the team to work harder and compete to be SCIAC champions,” said sophomore centerfielder Andrew Woolsey.
This year, Wright feels one of the team’s strengths is the quantity of pitching. There are 12 in all, including leading pitchers sophomore Saul Hardin and senior Maynard McClarrinon.
The Leopards also have a strong middle defensively, a combination of centerfielder Woolsey, senior shortstop Lyle Miller and junior second baseman Justin Ott. The Leopards are also strong behind the plate with junior catcher Justin Dospital and sophomore catcher David La Peer.
“The best thing about our team is that we have a lot of players that can play a lot of positions, which is a great advantage. Armando Hernandez [junior] plays third, he’s a great hitter and can pitch as well. Garren [Injijian, junior] can play right field and first base,” said Woolsey.
“This year there is good team unity and enthusiasm. They get along as friends both on and off the field,” said Wright.
“This season we’re more of a team atmosphere rather than individuals,” said Hernandez.
Wright’s only concern is the fact that with only 11 returners and 14 newcomers, including key newcomers Hardin and Ott, there are “so many new faces and it will take time for us to come together and gel,” he said.
Said Woolsey, “Our team is young. We have a lot of new players, so it’s taken awhile for us to adapt to each other.”
Although Biola defeated ULV, 16-2, Feb. 4, Wright is not discouraged and remains positive.
“We had one real bad inning and gave them 10 runs. Biola is a scholarship school, they should beat us. They’ve got all of fall to practice and play,” said Wright.
“First and foremost I think the rain put a damper in the coach’s plans as far as practice wise,” Woolsey said. “The day before the game it rained hard and it limited our practice time. We didn’t get on the field much.
“The team played well in the first couple of innings but broke down in every aspect of the game because it was our first time being in a competitive situation. The more games we play, the better we’re going to get.”
Other teams that Wright feels will be a challenge for the Leopards are Cal Lutheran and Chapman.
The Leopards play Pomona-Pitzer today at 2:30 p.m on Ben Hines Field and conclude the series with a doubleheader at Pomona tomorrow at 11 a.m.
“I think we should do well,” said Wright, who encourages fans to come out and give the Leopards support. “There is no reason they should be any stronger than us.”