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Baseball struck by midseason slump

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by Agke Grow
Sports Editor

After a close 12-11 victory over Pacific University of Oregon on March 18, the University of La Verne baseball team has fallen upon hard times, and has managed only one win in its last six games.

Disappointing performances in the team’s last three games have resulted in a 7-6 loss to North Central College (Ill.), a 17-6 loss to UC San Diego and an unsatisfying 11-11 final score against Point Loma Nazarene University in a game called due to darkness. ULV’s record now stands at 13-7-1 overall, 9-3 in conference.

Last Friday, La Verne looked to carry the momentum of a March 20 win over Linfield College into its home game against North Central College.

The beginning of the game went well for La Verne, but the team was unable to maintain its lead, and lost 7-6.

After jumping out to an early 6-0 lead, mental and physical errors started to hurt La Verne.

“We didn’t have the ability to continue to play hard for nine innings,” said head coach Bobby Lee. “It’s disappointing to me, the effort level of this group, because the athletic ability is much, much better.”

On the bright side, Lee said, “Jon Cruz pitched well enough to win. Nate Devine swung the bat [well].”

La Verne began the game focused, and made outstanding defensive plays to escape the first two innings unscathed.

Junior pitcher Cruz got out of the first inning with a pickoff, as well as a double play turned by senior second baseman Corey Rooper from junior shortstop Eddie Muñoz. Junior first baseman Devine stretched for the ball to end the inning. ULV turned another double play to get out of trouble in the second inning.

The Leopards threatened in the second inning, but a great throw from North Central left fielder Tom Marran caught senior Garren Injijian at home plate. Injijian, who was trying to score from second base on a single by junior third baseman Matt Cresto, dislocated the last digit on his left pinky finger in the play.

“I was coming around to score, and I went in head first to home plate,” said Injijian. “Either he doesn’t have the ball yet and I’m taking him out, or he has the ball and I’ve got to slide.”

Injijian slid and his finger clipped the catcher’s shinguard.

“I went to urgent care, and they popped it back in place,” said Injijian.

After coming close in the second, La Verne put together its offense in the third inning. Senior outfielder Masa Ueda led off the inning with a single, but was picked off at first by NCC pitcher Chris Colmone.

Senior outfielder Andrew Woolsey renewed the attack by drawing a walk, and reached second on a passed ball. Devine then singled to left, scoring Woolsey to give ULV a 1-0 lead.

The Leopards followed up with a five-run fourth inning. Rooper singled to left. Junior Aaron Hill, pinch-hitting for the injured Injijian, moved Rooper to second with his grounder to third. Cresto drew a walk, and a passed ball moved the runners to second and third.

Ueda then singled to left for an RBI to make the score 2-0, and Cresto moved to third. Ueda stole second, and the rattled NCC pitcher walked Woolsey to load the bases, and gifted a run by walking Muñoz. With the scoreboard showing 3-0, Devine capitalized on the bases-loaded situation by smacking a three-RBI double down the left-field line to give the Leopards a 6-0 lead.

La Verne then got too comfortable with its lead, and although it held North Central scoreless for the first five innings, ULV failed to score in its final five innings.

“[We were] very complacent,” said Lee. “We don’t have the ability to finish, to play for 27 outs. I think its a lack of detail.”

NCC scored once in the sixth inning, and scored two runs in each of the final three innings to steal the win.

Ueda said, “We had a six-run lead, [and just] had to play catch and pay attention to detail, so [we] don’t get beaten by those teams.”

ULV had a 6-5 lead with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, but Jared Folley slapped a two-RBI single to left to give NCC a 7-6 lead they never surrendered.

“It’s amazing,” said Lee. “We come out and we do a couple good things, then we just kind of sit back, let the ball roll and just let it get away. We made three more errors today, so that’s 43 in 19 games.”

The team’s frustration continued on Monday, when La Verne hosted UC San Diego in a non-conference matchup.

UCSD racked up 17 hits, including four doubles, a triple and two home runs en route to a 17-6 drubbing of ULV.

ULV starting pitcher Ryan Christoph took the loss, and his record now stands at 4-2.

Powerful Triton pitching limited the Leopards to only four hits, two of which came from Injijian, who homered and knocked in two of ULV’s six runs.

Five of La Verne’s runs were earned against UCSD starting pitcher John Beaven, who was chased after three and one-third innings. Erick Snyder and Yeshayah Goldfarb then held the Leopards hitless for the final five and two-thirds innings.

Rooper went one for two, and scored twice. Freshman catcher B.J. Hand went one for three with an RBI double.

The fielding problems continued for the Leopards, who committed eight errors in the game.

On Tuesday, ULV traveled to San Diego to play Point Loma Nazarene University, and again surrendered a late-inning lead.

Ahead 7-3 in the eighth, ULV surrendered a run, and lost the remaining three-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning when PLNU’s Brad Vericker hit a three-run home run to send the game to extra innings.

La Verne scored four runs in the top of the 11th to take a 11-7 lead, but once again, Vericker came to PLNU’s rescue with a three-run homer to make the score 11-10. A hit batsman with the bases loaded tied the game for PLNU at 11-11, and after the inning the game was called due to darkness.

Lee said, “It could be an unbelievably long month of April, or kind of an enjoyable month of April. It’s a pretty good group, but potential sucks. Performance counts.”

La Verne had an opportunity to break out of its slump yesterday at home against Azusa Pacific University, and will play a three-game series against Caltech beginning today at 2:30 p.m. in Pasadena. The series moves to Ben Hines Field tomorrow for a double header. The first game is slated for an 11 a.m. start. On Tuesday, ULV will seek revenge when the team visits UCSD at 2:30 p.m.

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