With the fate of their season in sight, and three conference foes standing in their way, La Verne baseball team played Occidental last weekend, winning two of three.
The Leopards swept Saturday’s doubleheader at Ben Hines Field after losing the opener on Friday by one run in the bottom of the ninth inning.
“We had to sweep and we felt we could’ve beaten them but so many things went wrong,” junior starting pitcher Jesse Sweet said.
The series opener, which was played at Anderson Field in Los Angeles, was an evenly matched game with both teams getting solid pitching from their bullpens.
Sophomore starting pitcher Tim Jolly went seven innings, striking out eight and allowed four earned runs.
After being down 4-1, the Leopards answered back in the seventh inning when freshman right fielder Kent Longnecker hit a solo home run.
La Verne struck again in the eighth with two runs to tie the game 4-4; courtesy of junior third baseman Mike Moretti’s double to center field.
The tie was broken by the Tigers in the bottom of the ninth as the ULV bullpen hit two batters and gave up the winning run on a throwing error by junior pitcher Grant Wheatley.
“It was pretty frustrating,” senior designated hitter Scott Marcus said. “We shouldn’t have dropped that loss.”
In the first game of the doubleheader, La Verne seemed to play with the same level of confidence that nearly won them the opener.
The Tigers led 2-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning but the Leopards responded with a four run flurry which was highlighted by a two-RBI double to left field from senior second baseman Trevor Boucher.
La Verne extended their lead in the seventh inning with a two-run home run from sophomore left fielder Mike Belcher and an RBI single from Moretti.
Occidental added two runs in the top of the ninth but it would not be enough as La Verne won game one, 8-4.
Boucher and Belcher collected two RBIs each in the victory.
ULV got another great performance from Sweet, who won his fifth game of the season going eight innings, allowing three earned runs. Sophomore pitcher David Contreras earned the save.
“I feel like I threw pretty well,” Sweet said. “Coach got on me about a few bad pitches, but I think I did a pretty good job of holding them down and kept my team in the game.”
The Leopards carried their momentum into the second game, scoring early and often against the ailing Tigers.
Occidental scored one run in the top of the first, but the lead would be their last of the game as senior shortstop Jack Mehl’s lead off solo home run in the bottom half of the inning tied the game, 1-1.
La Verne added two runs in the second and third innings to take a comfortable 5-1 lead.
The Tigers scored three runs in the fifth inning to cut the deficit to one run; however, the Leopards would again respond with four runs over the next two innings to add to their lead.
Marcus hit his 12th home run of the season, a solo shot, in the bottom of the fifth inning.
“It feels good, but to be honest no matter how many home runs I hit, stats don’t matter if we don’t win conference,” Marcus said.
The Leopards proceeded to tack on four more runs as they held the Tigers scoreless in the final four innings to earn their second win of the day, winning the game, 12-4.
ULV was led offensively by Marcus who batted 3 for 5 with two RBIs and three runs scored. Mehl, who went 4 for 5, also had three runs scored.
Senior pitcher Ryan Rose earned his sixth victory of the season.
With the sweep La Verne maintained its third place standing in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, trailing only Redlands and Pomona-Pitzer.
ULV resumes conference play today at 3 p.m. against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in Claremont to kick off a three game series.
Richard Lugo can be reached at email@example.com.