The season ended on a high note for the La Verne baseball team as it avoided a three game sweep by winning the final game of the series against Pomona Pitzer, 13-10, on Saturday at Ben Hines Field. Saturday also represented senior day for the Leopards. All seniors were honored on the field before the first game.
“It was a great season and our team had a lot of potential,” senior pitcher Grant Wheatley said.
On Friday the Leopards were on the road against the Sagehens. Pomona-Pitzer led the game 3-2 until the top of the eighth when sophomore outfielder Donovan Petta hit a double into right field to give the Leopards a 4-3 advantage.
But the Sagehens came back in the ninth to score twice to end the game, 5-4.
“It was a tough loss. We really battled,” Wheatley said. “They just happened to hit the ball when they needed to.”
On Saturday the Leopards saw a similar start. Tied 3-3 the Sagehens earned an RBI from Zachary Mandelblatt.
Down 5-3 in the ninth the Leopards senior infielder Jon-Michael Hattabaugh hit a sacrifice fly to center field to decrease the deficit to 5-4. But the Sagehens managed to get junior catcher Mike Surina to fly out to right field to end the game.
Hattabaugh had three RBIs in the game. It was his 100th of his career, ranking him ninth among the Leopards all-time.
The loss put the Sagehens up 2-0 in the series.
“There were close games,” junior pitcher David Contreras said. “They just happened to pull the first two out.
Down 6-4 in the fifth during the final game, the Leopards came roaring back on back-to-back RBI singles by Petta and Mark Larini to tie the game. A steal from Larini and RBI from senior Allen Komori put the Leopards up 8-6.
But the Sagehens were not done yet. Pomona-Pitzer tied the game, 8-8, following two RBIs by the Sagehens right fielder Teddy Bignham.
But sloppy pitching from the Sagehens gave the Leopards a 9-8 advantage after Matt Ayres was hit by a pitch. Later, Munoz hit a double that increased the Leopards lead to 11-8.
Senior pitcher Sal Diaz earned the win in the final game of the season and his final game at ULV. Junior pitcher David Contreras earned the save.
“We kept playing good baseball, we weren’t playing bad baseball,” Contreras said. “We just got the win.”
The win comes after an up-and-down season for the Leopards. After winning SCIAC last year, the Leopards started off on rocky grounds in the beginning of the season, losing its first six games in SCIAC.
“It’s definitely a disappointment,” Surina said. “We saw at the end of the year what team we really were.”
“We had a really good group of guys,” Contreras said. “Our only problem was we dropped a couple of series in the beginning of the year.”
Four members of the Leopards were named with First Team All-SCIAC honors: Victor Peinado, Hattabaugh Surina and Wheatley.
Senior pitcher Jesse Sweet was named to the Second Team.
Now the Leopards look to the future.
“Ultimately our goal is to win a national championship,” Contreras said. “This season is going to motivate us that much more.”
Jonathan Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.