The Leopards lost both games in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament last weekend at Ullman Stadium in Thousand Oaks, eliminating them from postseason contention.
La Verne lost the opening game of the tournament against Cal Lutheran, 6-2, and faced elimination by Chapman, where they lost a nail-biter, 8-7.
“Chapman and Cal Lutheran played better than us, all away around,” head coach Scott Winterburn said.
The Leopards finish the season with an overall record of 21-20 and a conference record of 15-9.
“At the end of the day, I don’t think you can narrow it down to one thing,” freshman first baseman Dylan Alhanati said of the losses.
In the first tournament game against Cal Lutheran, La Verne was held without a run in the first seven innings, while the Kingsmen jumped out to an early lead.
Cal Lutheran senior third baseman Jimmy Jaurequi got the scoring started in the bottom of the first with a double to right field to score senior right fielder Gabriel Gunter.
A second double by sophomore first baseman Weston Clark scored Jaurequi, putting Cal Lutheran in the lead, 2-0.
The Leopards struggled for most of the game to get any runners in scoring position, finishing with only seven hits.
After Cal Lutheran increased their lead, 3-0, with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third, La Verne’s bullpen held the Kingsmen scoreless over the next three innings.
The Leopards offense, however, could not get on the board, and senior left fielder Sinjin Todd hit a single to right field, bringing home senior catcher Trey Saito to put Cal Lutheran up, 4-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning.
La Verne got on the board with a solo home run in the top of the eighth inning by senior first baseman Jakob Thomas, his tenth home run of the season, trimming the Cal Lutheran deficit, 4-1.
“I like to think we are confident against any team in this conference,” Thomas said. “We are always coming out to play no matter whether we are at home or on the road.”
The Leopards attempted a late rally in the top of the ninth, but after Cal Lutheran added two insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth to go up, 6-1, the deficit seemed immeasurable.
La Verne loaded the bases, but only one runner scored before the game ended in a strike out.
On Saturday, the Leopards faced elimination at Chapman, and fought nine hard innings with the Panthers to avoid being sent home.
“We came up short because they had one more hit than us,” Winterburn said.
La Verne got the first lead with a single in the bottom of the first inning by Thomas and they proceeded to score three more runs in the bottom of the fourth, but Chapman managed to match the Leopards run-for-run the entire game.
With the score tied, 7-7, heading into the final inning, a right field single proved to be the difference in a tightly contested game, giving Chapman a 8-7 win and eliminating La Verne from the tournament.
Though the losses were tough for the Leopards, Winterburn said there were plenty of positives to take away from the season.
“We’re really proud because on the last day of the season we were playing for a conference championship,” Winterburn said.
He added only three positions in the starting line-up will be graduating in the off-season; catcher, shortstop, and second baseman.
The Leopards will be losing a total of nine players due to graduation.
Alhanati will be returning as a sophomore and is already looking forward to improving over the summer and fall.
“We need to have a good off-season,” Alhanati said.
Christopher McMahan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.