La Verne will lose another outstanding Leopard athlete come the end of the semester, as pitcher and infielder Mark Larini has played his last game for the University.
Larini, who will graduate with a degree in movement and sports science, finishes his career at La Verne with 137 strikeouts and a selection to the All-Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Baseball Team. Larini was the ace of the pitching staff for La Verne this season, with a record of 5-3, striking out 75, pitching 83.3 innings and posting a 3.02 earned run average.
“Stats are something to look back on and be proud of,” Larini said. “But as much as you play for you, you also play for your team.”
Larini was a four-year starter for the Leopards and was a part of the 2008 SCIAC Championship team, where they beat Pomona-Pitzer.
“My favorite memory has to be my freshman year when we dog-piled on Pomona’s field,” Larini said. “Especially because it was Pomona’s field.”
However the El Monte native’s love for the game began many years prior to winning SCIAC; as a toddler he would play in the backyard with his dad and then eventually began playing little league.
“When I was little I was always throwing things,” Larini said. “I always knew I wanted to play ball.”
Larini came to La Verne from Arroyo High School and ever since then baseball has been his entire life.
“It’s been hard to manage time and priorities,” Larini said. “Even now I think to myself, ‘should I do homework or play?’ If I wasn’t at school or home, I was playing.”
Even though baseball has consumed most of his college life, Larini has gained new friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.
“The group of guys I have played with has been great,” Larini said.
“I’m going to miss the feeling of being around them and the coaching staff. It’s been a long four years and Coach (Scott) Winterburn has opened my eyes to a lot.”
“He’s an extremely hard worker and he has great determination and mental toughness,” teammate and fellow senior Donovan Petta said. “But as serious and as into the game as he is, he always keeps things from getting dull on and off the field.”
“He took me under his wing,” junior teammate Alan Heide said. “As my workout partner he pushed me and showed me what I needed to do to get things done.”
Although Larini shined on the mound this season, he also had a chance to play on the field and help La Verne offensively.
“I like hitting, diving for balls and helping out defensively, but I love pitching and the spotlight,” Larini said.
“He’s helped the team on the mound and on the field,” Petta said. “He’s had a good year and his leadership skills have shown.”
Larini has an affection for the game that goes deeper than being an ace or making a highlight play at first base.
“What I love the most is how difficult baseball is as a whole,” Larini said.
“There’s all this execution, skill and strategy, which not everyone notices. I love how any team can beat anyone on just about any day.”
Although his college career has come to an end, Larini has no plans of stopping anytime soon. He plans on trying out for Major League teams and to use his MSS degree to coach or teach.
“There’s a feeling of uncertainty, but I’m excited to see what’s out there,” Larini said. “It’s going to be hard leaving all the memories behind and getting used to all the free time I’m going to have. I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself, but baseball has always been my number one and I don’t want to stop here.”
Elsie Ramos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.