The Leopards gave Ben Hines Field and their seniors a proper farewell last Friday, beating Caltech, 13-3, in seven innings.
It was not only the last home game for nine La Verne seniors, but also for the entire team, as Ben Hines Field will be a parking lot next season.
“I’m definitely going to miss this field,” senior right fielder Donovan Petta said. “It’s not just my last home game, it’s the team’s.”
“The field situation sucks,” former Leopard catcher Mike Surina said. “I have a lot of good memories here. Hopefully it stays.”
La Verne got off to a shaky start as junior pitcher Nathan Rollon gave up two hits and one run in the first inning, but came back in the bottom half of the inning, scoring two runs off one hit.
The Leopards scored three runs in the second and one in the fourth, but their big inning came in the fifth when they scored five runs off two hits.
The inning began with a four-pitch walk to sophomore left fielder Cody Hazel.
The next two batters, senior shortstop Sergio Munoz and first baseman Aaron Coopman, were hit by pitches, which loaded the bases for freshmen third baseman Brian Tuttle.
Tuttle then promptly hit a double to left center field, scoring Hazel and Muñoz.
Coopman would score on a sacrifice groundout by sophomore catcher Jason Morales.
Junior outfielder Jacob Ludvik then hit a line drive double to right field, scoring Tuttle from third.
Ludvik would later come home for the last run of the inning.
La Verne would add two more runs in the bottom of the sixth off one hit, two walks and an error.
Hazel started the inning with a walk after getting hit by a pitch.
What should have been a single to right turned into a triple for Muñoz, after an error on the throw by Caltech right fielder Nick Robertson.
Hazel would score on the error.
“It was a good way to go out,” Muñoz said. “Nice way to end our last game at Ben Hines.”
Sergio Munoz ended his collegiate career with 120 hits as a Leopard.
“I’m going to miss all the guys,” Sergio Munoz said. “We’ve turned into a big family.”
The other eight seniors honored were Petta, Coopman, pitcher Mark Larini, Jason Muñoz, pitcher Matt Baudino, third baseman Joe Buckley, pitcher Willie Patti and pitcher David Bradley.
“Hearing everyone clap and hearing my accomplishments really cements the fact that it’s the last day,” Coopman said.
“Looking back on my time here was exciting to hear,” Petta said. “My favorite memory was dog-piling on Pomona-Pitzer’s field in 2008 when we won SCIAC.”
Petta led the Leopards this year with 28 runs batted in.
Larini was the ace for La Verne, ending the season with five wins, three losses and striking out 137.
“I’m not going to lie. I got a little choked up,” Larini said. “When you play, you never really focus on the end, but its good to know I contributed.”
“We had a lot of really good games this season, so to get that many strikeouts is just a bonus,” Larini added.
The Leopards had one last game to focus on, when they took on Cal Lutheran in their final conference game on Saturday.
An RBI double by Jason Munoz would be all the offense the Leopards would need, squeezing out a 1-0 win.
Larini pitched seven innings of shut out baseball, giving up six hits, walking three and striking out five.
“It was a really tight game and I just had to go out there and try to hold them down,” Larini said.
La Verne finished second in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with a record of 20-8 and an overall record of 25-14.
They fell just two games short of first place Redlands, who finished their season with a conference record of 22-6 and an overall record of 28-9.
Because the Leopards did not win SCIAC, they do not automatically qualify for the NCAA Regional Championships.
However they still have an opportunity to make it with an at-large bid.
Elsie Ramos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.