Sweeping a three-game series is always nice, but with one weekend remaining in their regular season, the La Verne baseball team propelled itself into second place in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference after sweeping last weekend’s series against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
“You never want to be in a position where you have to sweep, but we needed it,” head coach Scott Winterburn said.
La Verne is currently behind Redlands who hold a 14-4 record in conference play.
The Leopards opened up the series on Friday visiting the Stags in Claremont at Arce Field.
La Verne wasted no time jumping on the scoreboard with five runs in the top of the first inning.
CMS answered back with a run in the bottom half of the inning but they would trail throughout.
La Verne had another big burst of offense in the third inning with three runs and added another run in the seventh as they cruised to an easy victory winning 9-3.
Sophomore pitcher Tim Jolly had another solid performance going eight innings allowing only three earned runs and striking out five, as he earned his fifth win of the season.
“Coming out I gave up a run but our offense picked up and our momentum wasn’t slowed down,” Jolly said.
ULV returned to Ben Hines Field on Saturday to host a doubleheader against CMS.
This game turned into a shootout from the onset with both teams putting up big offensive numbers, although unlike Friday’s game, the Stags were the ones who scored five runs in the top of the first.
CMS took a 6-0 lead into the bottom of the second before La Verne answered with three runs of their own.
The back and forth game continued with the Stags adding five runs over the next two innings and pushed the lead to 11-3.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Leopards made their move scoring five runs.
A bulk of this came from senior designated hitter Scott Marcus and first baseman Jon-Michael Hattabaugh, who both hit two RBI singles.
Trailing 12-8, La Verne went off for another big inning in the sixth scoring four runs, highlighted by senior second baseman Trevor Boucher’s three-run triple to left field.
With the score tied 12-12, the Leopards got their last at bat in the ever exciting bottom of the ninth inning.
La Verne gave their fans what they were seeking when senior catcher Ryan Jordan hit a walk off double down the left field line scoring sophomore left fielder Jason Munoz from first base.
That capped an eight-run, come-from-behind victory that the Leopards so badly needed.
Boucher led the Leopards offensively batting 3 for 5 with four RBIs.
“This was one of the best comebacks I’ve ever been a part of,” Winterburn said. “Our guys could’ve rolled over when we were down but they didn’t.
We felt like the way our hitters hit and their lack of depth in the bullpen gave us a chance.”
The Leopards got down again in the early innings of the second game.
CMS scored two runs off back to back solo home runs from Travis Nishioka and Andrew Blomberg.
Marcus’ triple in the third drove in the first run of the game for La Verne.
ULV trailed 5-2 before reclaiming the lead and going off for another five run inning in the bottom of the sixth.
The Stags were down 7-6 heading into the bottom of the eighth where La Verne exploded for an 11-run outburst.
Fittingly it was Marcus’ three-run home run that capped off the inning.
The Leopards went on to win 18-6. Marcus finished the game batting 2 for 4 with five RBIs.
“Coming in we knew we needed to win both games,” said senior shortstop Jack Mehl. “We found a way to win and that says a lot about this team’s character. I think we’re gelling at the right time.”
“The character of this team to keep fighting is what defined this series,” Winterburn said.
Redlands face Claremont this weekend in a three-game series.
Richard Lugo can be reached at email@example.com.