Leopards move into tie for 1st place

Mark Acosta
Sports Editor

La Verne baseball used 15 hits to overcome a seven-run deficit to beat Chapman, 12-10, Friday at Ben Hines Field.

The Leopards are tied with Redlands for first place in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with a record of 16-5.

With one three-game series against Whittier left on the regular season schedule, the Leopards’ overall record stands at 25-12.

“The guys themselves did a really good job of staying in the game,” assistant coach Gabe Miranda said. “We just needed to chip away.”

La Verne found themselves down 7-0 when they came up to bat in the second inning. Chapman was able to string hits together against junior starter Christopher Arcos.

But the Leopards came back and answered with four runs of their own in the second inning.

Sophomore catcher Adam Santa Cruz started the rally with a single up the middle and junior third baseman Lukas Granado hit one of his three doubles to put runners on first and third with nobody out.

Senior second baseman Mauricio Guadarrama singled to shortstop to load the bases.

Sophomore shortstop Jacob Benson got the scoring started by getting hit by a pitch, bringing in Santa Cruz.

A wild pitch brought in another run, making it 7-2.

Another two runs came in off of a fielding error from Chapman’s third baseman Gavin Blodgett, on a ball hit by designated hitter Jakob Thomas went under his glove.

After two innings, La Verne was right back in the game, trailing 7-4.

“One of our senior pitchers, Nick Byrd, brought us up and said the offense needs to help out the pitching staff,” Thomas said. “I think he helped us out early in the game. We never really looked back after that.”

Heading into the fourth inning the Leopards were still behind, 9-5.

Granado doubled in two runs to trim the lead.

After Benson’s sacrifice fly to right field, the Leopards were only down a run.

Junior left fielder Christopher Ligot tied up the game with a line drive up the middle to score Granado.

Thomas singled and senior first baseman Nick Michaels broke the tie with a one-hopper to the center field wall that scored two, giving the Leopards their first lead, 11-10.

“The first two at-bats weren’t good, I was thinking a little too much,” Michaels said. “That was probably one of the best balls I have hit all year.”

La Verne added a run in the fifth and Chapman got one in the sixth, but junior closer Chris Peres was able to close out the game, striking out two of the three hitters he faced.

“Our philosophy is just being tougher,” Santa Cruz said. “Never giving in, no matter what the situation is. All the credit goes to (head coach Scott Winterburn) and the season he has put in.”

The Leopards split their Saturday doubleheader with the Panthers, losing the first game, 8-6, but winning the second, 6-4.

La Verne will continue SCIAC play at 3 p.m. on Friday at Whittier before coming home for the final conference games of the season starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

Whittier, currently tied for fifth place in SCIAC with Occidental, is riding a hot streak. The Poets have won eight of their last 10 games.

Meanwhile, Redlands will face fourth place Pomona-Pitzer for a three-game series over the weekend.

Mark Acosta can be reached at mark.acosta@laverne.edu.

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