Associate Sports Editor
After securing first place in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with two blowout wins against Cal Lutheran the previous day, the softball team split a doubleheader with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Saturday to ensure the top spot in the conference for at least one more week.
The Leopards had two games that ended after six innings at 11-3 and 15-5 against Cal Lutheran the previous day, factoring into a slow start for La Verne.
The Athenas took advantage of the slow start to take the opener, 7-3, before La Verne returned to take a 5-1 win from CMS to hold onto first.
“That’s how a first place team plays. That’s how a championship team plays. Laura (Olson) pitched a great game. Tara (Allis) had some big hits, Daryn (Schiveley) had a big hit too,” head coach Julie Smith said.
The Leopards fell down early, giving up two runs in the first inning and four more in the second to take a commanding 6-0 lead that held on for the remainder of the game.
In the sixth, La Verne began its attempted comeback with a lead-off double by sophomore right fielder Amanda Hastings, who later scored to put the Leopards on the board for the first time in the game.
Later in the inning with the bases loaded and CMS changed pitchers, freshman third baseman Breanna English sent home junior left fielder Dee Dee Burns on a fielder’s choice RBI to bring the score to 7-2.
“I feel like it took until the sixth for us to play like a team,” Smith said. “They came in not realizing that a new day means you have to earn it.”
With three outs left, La Verne gave its last push to tie the game with the bases loaded, but only managed to send one runner home, coming on a sacrifice fly by Burns.
Game two was the complete opposite of the first for the Leopards from the first at-bat to the last out as the energy level from the players and the dugout changed dramatically.
La Verne struck first in the third as Mandy Brenner and Hastings reached home on consecutive powerful hits that flew past Athenas second baseman Michaela Ecklund to bring the momentum to the visitors’ side with a 2-0 lead.
However in the fourth, the Leopards opened the game up to its largest margin on a RBI single by junior catcher Schiveley that brought home two runs and a RBI double by senior shortstop Ashley Paul that stretched the lead to 5-0 in favor of the conference leaders.
“As soon as one person starts hitting all of us do,” freshman pitcher Olson said. “We were waiting for the momentum that we didn’t have in the first game.”
The Athenas would not go away quietly as they scored a run in the sixth and were threatening to knot the game up with the bases loaded and one out, but senior pitcher Delaney Baylor relieved Olson and helped record the final two outs with her own glove, including a strikeout to end the game.
“We wanted to push for Laura to finish the game and she gave every ounce she had,” Smith said. “It was great to have Delaney finish like that because now we know we can do that in the future.”
“It was really good, we should’ve won the first but we brought the energy to the second,” Hastings said.
The Leopards answered Smith’s first message from last week, to get into first place, and have already begun answering her second, to play like they are in first place.
“If we didn’t win we wouldn’t be in first. We needed to play like we’re in first and we don’t like that team anyway,” Olson said.
Daniel Hargis can be reached at email@example.com.