La Verne managed to pounce past the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens, 9-5, even after going into the fourth inning scoreless, Saturday at Campus West for the first game of its doubleheader.
After coming back to Campus West with a tough doubleheader loss to the Cal Lutheran Regals Friday, 4-3 and 7-4, the Leopards kept their mindset strong, as they hoped to come out with a victory.
“We’re very tight and they need to learn to take it pitch by pitch, moment by moment,” head coach Julie Smith said.
“We’re making these games too tough on ourselves, we’re not simplifying it, so we’re gonna go back looking at the books and hopefully ride that,” she said.
The Sagehens scored early to start the game in the second inning, with an unearned walk by sophomore third baseman Paige Oliver, 1-0.
“It was frustrating at the beginning just because the umpire was really tight and things were tense,” junior pitcher Katy Kibbe said.
“But we just kept fighting and scored runs, even though it was kind of late it really helped us,” she said.
Headed into the fourth inning down, 5-0, the Leopards were able to get on the board with a home run by junior third baseman Mackenzie Dutton.
This was her third home run of the season.
“I’ve just been a lot more confident at bat and being a lot more picky with my pitch selection,” Dutton said.
“In my own head, it kind of just happened,” she said. Even with her home run, the Leopards were still down, 5-1, but they managed to find their momentum and had control of the game from then on. In the bottom of the fifth, the Leopards were able to tie the game.
Senior catcher Rebecca Ireland grounded out to right field and scored junior centerfielder Raeleen Tellez.
Dutton then singled through the middle to score junior shortstop Victoria Baltazar who was on third, 5-3.
Dutton went 2-for-2, along with two RBIs and two walks.
Sophomore first baseman Alexis Schiff kept the fire going, as she hit a home run down the left field line.
She was able to bring Dutton home as well to tie the game at 5.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Baltazar hit her first home run of the season.
She was able to bring home senior right outfielder Katie Cunningham and Tellez, to extend the Leopards lead, 8-5.
“The feeling was really amazing and I honestly thought it wasn’t going out and thought it would hit the fence,” Baltazar said.
“But then coach yelled, ‘It went over.’ And just running around the bases without any pressure was amazing.” Baltazar went 2-for-4 and is batting .396 on the season.
Still in the bottom of the sixth, Schiff singled to left field, scoring Ireland, 9-5.
Pomona-Pitzer was unable to answer back, sealing the game for La Verne.
“We were struggling defense wise and lost track of where we were and where we wanted to be, so we just kept fighting and just came out to seal the game,” Baltazar said.
“Our energy was more up and on defense we were more relaxed with no pressure being finally up on the game,” she said.
Kibbe also earned a conference-leading fifth win of the season.
In game two of the doubleheader, La Verne could not stay hot and lost to the Sagehens, 11-2, in five innings.
The Sagehens managed to score early and up a 7-0 lead by the top of the third inning.
In the bottom of the third, Dutton hit another home run to right field.
This allowed her to bring home Ireland, to cut the deficit to 7-2.
Pomona-Pitzer was able to score four more runs in the fourth and fifth inning, to extend its lead to 11-2.
The Leopards were unable to hold the Sagehens, which resulted in the mercy rule, ending the game with a loss.
“We definitely need more communication, kind of cleaning our defense up and we need to work together more as a team,” Dutton said.
“If we reach our potential and unified as a team, then we can really move forward in conference,” she said.
She now has four home runs this season and is hitting .463.
“Every time we lose it’s like shocking to me, like I feel we shouldn’t ever be losing,” Kibbe said.
“So I feel like we should be good going forward in conference and shouldn’t drop any more games like we did,” she said.
The Leopards finished the weekend with an 8-8 overall record and 4-4 in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.
“The goal is to reach the postseason tournament,” Smith said. “Obviously I want more as a coach and it’s gonna depend on other people and other teams.”
“I told the team don’t let anyone else dictate our success. There’s still time for us to be successful and be on the top four,” she said.
The team will play another doubleheader against the Whittier Poets Saturday starting at noon at Palmer Field in Whittier.
Jolene Nacapuy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hal Hargrave can be reached at email@example.com.