The Leopard baseball team put one hand on the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title with a dominating 13-0 seven-inning mercy-rule win over the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags Saturday at CMS’ Arce Field.
Following an 8-2 loss to Pomona-Pitzer on Friday, the Leopards put themselves one win away from clinching the championship outright with the victory over CMS.
“They were clicking on all cylinders today,” head coach Scott Winterburn said. “They played great defense, they played great offense and the pitching was great. It was a great team win all around.”
The Leopards put the game away early, led by a strong combination of pitching and hitting.
Nine straight Stag batters during the second, third and fourth innings were retired. During that same stretch La Verne blew open its 4-0 lead from the second inning to an 11-0 lead.
Most of those runs came in the top of the fifth inning, fresh off the last of the three short defensive innings.
Junior designated hitter Albert Ramos reached on a single, but was replaced by sophomore shortstop George Hanna at first base after a fielder’s choice sent Ramos to the dugout.
Junior third baseman Mason Stoltenberg hit another single, then senior Zach Canfield flew out for the second out of the inning. Senior center fielder Jacob Ludvik blasted a three-run home run over the left field wall for a 10-0 lead. It was his third home run of the year.
“I’ve been sticking to my plans,” Ludvik said. “I’ve been getting lucky and hitting the ball hard.”
Two batters later, junior Jason Moralez, added to his team-leading 44 RBIs this season to bring junior Bryce Roenicke home.
La Verne added two more runs in the top of the sixth inning, but had already eclipsed the 10-run lead needed for a mercy-rule finish. The only thing left was to hold that lead until after the seventh inning.
Senior pitcher Anthony Cerafice frustrated the Stags’ batters throughout all seven innings.
Cerafice, La Verne’s No. 7, struck out Claremont’s No. 7 Brian Bartlett for his seventh strikeout to end the game. He did not walk nor hit a batter and only allowed four hits for his sixth win of the year.
“Today I wanted to keep the team in the ball game,” Cerafice said. “I took it one pitch at a time.”
When balls were put into play, the defense backed Cerafice up.
Ludvik chased down multiple fly balls while infielders like Hanna and Canfield contained dangerous ground balls to keep CMS at bay.
“The kids pride themselves on being in the right place before the pitch,” Winterburn said. “Jacob Ludvik had a sliding catch at the wall that may have turned the momentum for us.”
The dynamic of strong pitching and hitting worked together in the Leopards’ favor, one fueling the other.
“We needed someone to shut down their offense so we could get ours going,” Ludvik said. “He gave us a lot of momentum.”
Cerafice credited the offense with allowing him to stay comfortable.
“They gave me the run support I needed early and often,” Cerafice said. “They kept me confident.”
The team, which is 24-13 overall and 19-7 in SCIAC, must win one of its last two regular season games to win the conference championship outright, beginning with senior day at 3 p.m. Friday at Mt. SAC against Whittier. The second game is at 1 p.m. Saturday at Cal Lutheran.
Daniel Hargis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.