The softball team brought out the brooms Saturday to sweep a doubleheader from the Chapman Panthers and claim the 2016 Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship.
This is the Leopards’ first SCIAC title since 2004 and they were also named Leopards of the Week.
The Leopards won the first game of the doubleheader at Campus West, 3-2, and completed the sweep with a 4-2 win in game two to extend their winning streak to 14.
La Verne finishes the regular season 29-9 overall and 25-3 in SCIAC play. They are also in the No. 1 seed.
“It was amazing,” junior third baseman Alexis Schiff said. “We have fought all season for this and we never let our low points take advantage of us. We fought hard to get to where we were and we were happy to reach this milestone for our program together.”
Head coach Julie Smith and her staff was also Coaching Staff of the Year.
In game one of the doubleheader Saturday, the Panthers got on the board first with a double to left center field by senior center fielder Gabrielle Leveratto to bring home two runs in the top of the second inning, 2-0.
The Leopards tied the game at two a piece with a two-run home run to center field by senior second baseman
Victoria Baltazar bringing in senior shortstop Raeleen Tellez in the bottom of the third inning.
This was Baltazar’s first home run of the season.
“It felt great and what made it more perfect was that it happened on senior day,” Baltazar said.
La Verne took the lead with a single to left field by freshman left fielder Sienna Kendricks to bring home senior third baseman Mackenzie Dutton, 3-2.
Senior pitcher Katherine Kibbe pitched her 12th complete game of the season.
Kibbe retired consecutive batters, while striking out nine to seal the win.
“I’m glad I was able to do my job and my defense worked hard behind me and made it easy for me,” Kibbe said. “Once we had a lead, I think we all felt like we couldn’t be stopped.”
She was also named 2016 SCIAC Athlete of the Year and to the All-SCIAC First Team.
“Being named SCIAC Athlete of the Year is obviously amazing, but I could not have gotten the wins I did or put up the number I did without the backup of my incredible team, offensively and defensively,” Kibbe said. “This season, I was able to just go out and pitch, do my job, and know that my teammates were going to do theirs too. It has truly been an incredible ride.”
Dutton, Kendricks, Tellez and Schiff were also named to the All-SCIAC First Team.
The Leopards brought their momentum in game two of the doubleheader.
The Panthers once again got on the board first with two runs in the top of the first inning to take a 2-0 lead.
Kibbe then came in to pitch for senior pitcher Lyndsay Godwin.
However, La Verne took the lead in the bottom of the third.
With back-to-back fielding errors by Chapman, La Verne freshman right fielder Michelle Deguzman was brought home.
Schiff tripled down the left field line to bring home Dutton, Baltazar and freshman center fielder Carly Condon to take a 4-2 lead.
“It felt good because I was really struggling with hitting that day,” Schiff said. “Chapman had my number that day, so getting a hit, even though it wasn’t the greatest, felt really good because I was still able to contribute to our overall win.”
Kibbe gave up two hits with six strikeouts and is 18-4 on the season with an ERA of 1.63.
Prior to the game, five seniors were honored – Kibbe, Baltazar, Tellez, Godwin and Dutton.
“We have all grown so close as friends and teammates that it’s gonna be tough leaving them,” Godwin said.
La Verne will host the SCIAC Postseason Tournament in double elimination Friday at Campus West.
The team will face fourth seed Whittier at 10 a.m. The winner of that game will face the winner of the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps versus Redlands matchup in the winners bracket semifinal at 5:30 p.m.
The losers will play at 3 p.m. in a win-or-go home game.
“We have to play like we’ve been playing all season by getting ahead and scoring runs,” Godwin said. “Whittier has never been our easiest opponent, so we need to come out ready to play with the SCIAC tournament championship and regionals in our sight.”
The winner of the tournament will clinch the SCIAC automatic bid to the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament.
“We’ve had an amazing season,” Schiff said. “We have had to fight through everything. I wouldn’t have wanted to play with anyone else. We are ready to do whatever it takes and aren’t done yet.”
Jolene Nacapuy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.