Softball finishes season at Regionals

Gina Meza of ULV (#18) stops a UC San Diego player at second base during last Saturday's game. The game was one of three that ULV played during the Regional Playoffs. In the first game La Verne defeated Trinity University from Texas, 1-0. In the second game, played on Friday as well, ULV fell to host Chapman by a final score of 8-0. / photo by Erica Paal
Gina Meza of ULV (#18) stops a UC San Diego player at second base during last Saturday’s game. The game was one of three that ULV played during the Regional Playoffs. In the first game La Verne defeated Trinity University from Texas, 1-0. In the second game, played on Friday as well, ULV fell to host Chapman by a final score of 8-0. / photo by Erica Paal

by Enrique Gutiérrez
Staff Writer

The chance of revenge and a berth into Nationals passed by the University of La Verne softball team by at the 2000 NCAA West Region Championships.

The Leopards saw their conference-winning season come to an end as UC San Diego rallied for a five-run second inning en route to a tight 5-4 win to send the Leopards packing.

Despite the adverse result, the Leopards feel they left their souls on the playing field.

“I’m proud of the girls,” said head coach Julie Kline. “They competed. They were down and made the decision they weren’t going to fall and they rose to the occasion and they competed.”

La Verne entered the five-team, double-elimination tournament as the No. 5 seed and defeated Trinity University, 1-0, to begin its march last Friday.

Later that day, the Leopards were no match for host Chapman University and struggled to an 8-0 loss, which put the Leopards’ backs to the wall.

With one foot in, one foot out, La Verne faced UCSD, a team which defeated the Leopards three times during the last week of the regular season, in a do-or-die game on Saturday.

“We were confident coming in but not that we were going to beat them easily,” said UCSD designated hitter Kristina Anderson. “La Verne is a good team and we played them four times, so we knew they were going to be ready to fight. We knew it was going to be a really good game.”

The La Verne squad started out quite sloppily, allowing the Tritons to load the bases in the top of the first inning.

Nonetheless, starting pitcher Robin Haaker forced UCSD third baseman Jeanie Cordero to pop out to the shortstop, and ULV got out of the inning unscathed.

However, UC San Diego’s arsenal was ready to fire, and La Verne was not ready for it.

With one out and two runners in scoring position in the second inning, Haaker, a junior, walked UCSD lead-off hitter Samantha Hayes to load the bases for the second time in as many innings.

Coach Kline did not wait to make adjustments and she brought in freshman Mandy Tillema to the mound and moved Haaker to the outfield.

The first batter Tillema faced, Michelle Wilson, hit a single to center field and drove in the Triton’s first two runs.

Then Tillema surrendered a walk to shortstop Erin Bridges, setting the table for Anderson, whose double to right field was good for three more San Diego runs and a commanding 5-0 lead.

“Pitching wise, I wasn’t really prepared today because I wasn’t going in, I wasn’t starting,” said Tillema. “I came in and I knew that I had to give it my all. I wanted to shut them down so bad.”

After that slump Tillema put her game together, held the Tritons scoreless, and allowed only three hits in the remainder of the game.

Freshman Elizabeth Ramos fouls off a pitch during ULV's game against UC San Diego last Saturday. The game was part of the West Regional Playoffs hosted by Chapman University. The tournament had a strong field, including ULV, UCSD, Chapman, Trinity (Texas) and Pacific Lutheran (Wash.). Chapman won the Region, and will go on to compete against seven other regional winners for the Division III National Championship. / photo by Erica Paal
Freshman Elizabeth Ramos fouls off a pitch during ULV’s game against UC San Diego last Saturday. The game was part of the West Regional Playoffs hosted by Chapman University. The tournament had a strong field, including ULV, UCSD, Chapman, Trinity (Texas) and Pacific Lutheran (Wash.). Chapman won the Region, and will go on to compete against seven other regional winners for the Division III National Championship. / photo by Erica Paal

La Verne’s offensive power was felt in the third and fourth innings. The Leopards strung together four hits in each inning in their attempt to pull off the come-from-behind upset over UCSD.

Center fielder Libby Ramos and Haaker had back-to-back hits. When shortstop Gina Meza was at the plate, UCSD’s pitcher Leea Harlan threw a wild pitch to advance the runners to second and third.

Meza then stroked a 2-RBI single to center field and cut the deficit to 5-2.

First baseman Sue Whitcher came to the plate, and another wild pitch allowed Meza to get to second base.

Whitcher singled to center field and Kline gave Meza the green light to go all the way to home plate, but a perfect throw from San Diego’s Cynthia Sam to catcher Kristin Hunstad cut Meza down at home plate.

“The coach thought I could make it and from what I heard the center fielder had a perfect throw,” Meza said. “It could have gone either way. Obviously it didn’t go in our favor.”

The Leopards continued fighting, and in the fourth inning Tillema and freshman left fielder Jackie Russo hit another set of back-to-back singles. Both of them scored to move the Leopards within one run of the Tritons, at 5-4.

Ultimately the Leopards’ effort was beaten by that of the Tritons, who walked out of the park and the day with the one-run win.

“I expected us to come back and wanted us to win. I thought we were going to win,” said Tillema. “I thought we were going to pull it off, but we came just a little bit too short. But we gave it our all.”

“We showed a lot of character coming back from a 5-0 deficit and we showed a lot of heart throughout the whole game. We never let down,” said Ramos. “I was pretty satisfied with our performance.”

A dozen Leopards were left on base, including two in each of the sixth and seventh innings. La Verne also out hit UCSD 12-7.

The Leopards other games in the regional tourney included action against Trinity University from San Antonio, Texas.

The lone run of the Trinity game came in the top of the second inning.

Whitcher ignited the fire with a single to right field. Senior designated hitter Jennifer Thompson executed a bunt to advance Whitcher to second. After Russo was put out, Tillema responded for La Verne with a base hit, enough to bring Whitcher home.

In addition to the game-winning RBI, Tillema contributed with a solid performance from the mound.

She struck out seven batters and conceded only four hits in six inning of work.

“I just came to play. I was really focused and I felt really good,” said Tillema, the winning pitcher. “All my pitches were working and my team was behind me.”

Trinity catcher Ali Woods said, “It was a great game all around. They really came out aggressive, we played great defense but just didn’t have our bats out today.”

La Verne created several scoring opportunities, but most of the time they could not capitalize.

In the top of the sixth, the Leopards had a runner on third with only one out, but failed to score.

In the end though, one run proved to be enough and the Leopards prevailed by the narrowest of margins, 1-0.

“I don’t think we need to press so much at the plate,” said Kline. “We just need to relax and hit. I thought defensively we were sound, our pitching was solid. So our pitching is strong, our defense is strong and when we have runners on base we have to bring them around.”

“We should have been able to score more but we didn’t,” said Thompson. “I feel really happy that we got the first game out of the way because this is going to keep us going in a motivated type of way.”

However, that motivation hid from the Leopards in the second contest of the day against top-seeded Chapman University, who downed ULV in a lopsided 8-0 game.

It was another chance for revenge for La Verne. The Leopards lost to Chapman earlier this year.

The Panthers proved to be hungry for victory from the beginning of the matchup.

The two-time national runners-up took the early lead in the bottom of the first inning by scoring twice.

The Leopards had their chance to put some numbers on the scoreboard but left the bases loaded and scored no runs in the top of the second inning.

Ten Panthers stepped to the plate in the third inning, scoring six runs off six hits and diminishing the Leopards’ hopes.

“Our hits were when we needed them. When we had runners on we would get the hit, they would get their hits spread out and our defense did a good job keeping them from scoring,” said Panthers center fielder Dawn Lopez. “They had base runners on a lot but they didn’t hit them in when they needed to, and that was the difference.”

The Leopards got seven hits to Chapman’s nine, but the Panthers’ hits were much more timely.

Thompson was the only La Verne player with more than one hit in the Chapman game.

The game was called after the top of the fifth inning due to the mercy rule.

“They came out ready to play today and we didn’t that game,” Kline said. “They beat us because they were ready to play.”

The tournament ended on Sunday when Chapman defeated PLU twice to win the regional championships. The Panthers advanced to the national tournament in Salem, Va., where top-ranked Chapman meets the other seven regional champions. The double-elimination began yesterday and runs through Sunday.

Latest Stories

Related articles

La Verne inducts six into Hall of Fame

The University of La Verne’s 11th Annual Athletics Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony was held Saturday at the Sheraton Fairplex Avalon Ballroom.

La Verne athletes meet to celebrate

It has been a tradition for as long as anyone can remember. It is the gathering of student athletes to celebrate their seasons. However, it has only recently been a combined event at the University of La Verne.

Claremont thwarts ULV four-peat

The University of La Verne softball team faced off against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps last weekend in hopes of grabbing their fourth consecutive Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title. The Leopards needed to win all three games of the weekend to take first place in SCIAC and move on to regionals.

Leos enter conference crunch time

The University of La Verne softball team went 4-3 over spring break, including 1-3 in Hawaii, ending with a record of 28-13 overall and 11-4 in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.