Before the start of the 2006 baseball season, the University of La Verne baseball team found itself in familiar territory: on top.
After ending last season with a record of 31-13, La Verne began the season ranked 10th in a NCAA Division III poll.
Even with the high ranking, La Verne stayed true to its three-peat Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship aspirations.
“It’s a reflection of what your team did the year before,” said head coach Scott Winterburn. “Truthfully, we don’t think much about it once the ball is dropped.”
La Verne’s ranking comes in the wake of their complete dominance of the SCIAC league the previous two seasons.
“It’s a testament to the guys we had last year,” senior first basemen Jon Marty said.
La Verne brings back a handful of experienced seniors, including Marty, infielder Jason Jarvis and outfielder Lucas Berry, who all have played through La Verne’s back to back SCIAC championships.
Also, several key junior returnees, like outfielder Danny Bonilla and pitcher Matt Young, bring several assets to the team.
With many new faces gracing the field, La Verne finds itself lacking the experience that was evident in the previous two seasons.
“We’re young, fairly talented, but young,” Winterburn said.
Several new faces will hit the mound this season.
Sophomore pitchers Ryan Rose and Jimmy Wilfong, along with freshman pitcher Richard Johnson are looking to contribute a great deal to this young ball club.
Last season, La Verne dominated in league play, earning the team its second consecutive SCIAC title.
La Verne’s NCAA championship hopes were cut short after two losses to Texas Lutheran and fourth ranked powerhouse Chapman.
La Verne opened up their 2006 seasons 1-3, with two losses to NAIA powerhouse Biola and Cal Baptist and a close win over Concordia, prevailing 7-6.
“It was a rough start,” junior outfielder Ray Kaptur said. “We didn’t play the greatest game in the world, but we came through.”
Despite what their record might imply, Winterburn and his team are not discouraged.
“We try to play the toughest schedule,” Winterburn said. “We’re trying to utilize our non-conference games to get ready for SCIAC.”
They head to Arizona Feb. 16 to compete in the Division III Desert Classic against Whitworth.
Jonathan Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.