The game was not looking good for La Verne baseball as they were down 8-4 in the bottom of the sixth inning.
But that all changed when Nicholas Michaels took an outside 3-1 pitch and drove it into the net in right field for a grand slam, giving the Leopards a late lead as they would go on to beat Williams, 11-8, Wednesday at Ben Hines Field.
The Leopards have won seven of their last eight game pushing their overall record 16-9, and beat Williams for the second time in less than a week.
“We took a step forward in the last couple of weeks with our team,” head coach Scott Winterburn said. “On Sunday we took a step back so the message to the team was it wasn’t going the way we wanted to but we stayed with it.”
The Ephs put up a run up in the bottom of the first on a fielder’s choice off of sophomore starting pitcher Tyler Agajanian to take the early lead.
La Verne was able to respond quickly and put up four runs of their own in the bottom of the first.
Sophomore shortstop Jacob Benson led off the game by getting hit by a pitch.
After an pop out, Benson took second on a passed ball. Designated hitter Jakob Thomas drew a four-pitch walk to put runners on first and second with one out.
Michaels came up and doubled to score Benson and tie the game, while Thomas advanced to third.
Junior outfielder Brandon Vogel stuck out which brought up junior outfielder Christopher Peres who singled past the outstretched glove of the second baseman for a single.
Two runs came in to score to give the Leopards a 3-1 lead.
Peres stole second to get into scoring position and sophomore catcher Adam Santa Cruz singled up the middle to bring him home and make it 4-1 for La Verne in the bottom of the first. Benson came back up and line out hard to third to end the inning.
“When other teams score runs against us, we aren’t too worried about it,” Thomas said. “We just know offensively we are going to have to score runs and help our team out.”
After giving up a leadoff walk, Agajanian gave way to sophomore pitcher Cody Norman.
After getting the first out on a grounder back to the mound, Norman gave up a two-run home run to right field to outfielder Adam Regensburg which cut the lead to 4-3.
Norman was able to get the final two outs on a pop up and a strikeout to get out of the inning.
La Verne’s offense went dormant for the next four innings, they were not able to really put much pressure on Williams, after the good offensive start.
The Ephs were able to keep adding on runs and put another three on the board in the top of the third on four straight hits off of junior pitcher Art Corona Jr. to push their lead to 6-4.
Williams’ lead grew to 8-4 in the top of the sixth inning when they singled in a run and got another run off of a botched pickoff attempt at first that allowed the runner to score from third.
Santa Cruz opened the bottom of the sixth inning with a walk and senior infielder Mauricio Guadarrama followed with a singled to the shortstop.
This put runners on first and second with nobody out for junior infielder Lukas Granado. Granado took a pitch back up the middle into center field to load the bases with no outs and gave the Leopards a chance to get some runs.
The next two batters would strike out looking and the great scoring opportunity the Leopards had seemed like it was going to be wasted, but Thomas worked a walk and that scored Santa Cruz to cut the deficit to 9-5.
Michaels came up and got ahead in the count 3-1, the next pitch was up and away and he put a good swing on it to get it over the fence in right field, putting the Leopards ahead 9-8.
That was the biggest play of the game, and it gave the La Verne a lead which they had not had since the first inning.
“I knew he did not want to walk another one with the bases loaded so I got a pitch and put a good swing on it.” Michaels said. “I knew I got it.”
Once they regained the lead, the La Verne bullpen used junior pitcher A.J. Jimenez, senior pitcher Nick Byrd, senior pitcher Hayden Firth and Peres to close out the game.
The bullpen did not allow Williams another run and shut their offense down.
The Leopards would add another two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to make it 11-8.
“You have to trust your teammates to do their job,” Peres said. “We could have played much better, I thought we came out slow even though we scored four in the first.”
The Leopards used seven pitchers and made it a bullpen game.
Winterburn said he had planned on that because they continue conference play on Friday against and wanted to keep everyone fresh for their upcoming weekend series.
La Verne continues action at 3 p.m. Friday at Occidental and come home to finish off the series with a doubleheader at 11 a.m. Saturday at Ben Hines Field.
Mark Acosta can be reached at email@example.com.