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After a season long series of hosting nationally-ranked programs, the La Verne softball team concluded non-conference play against No. 7 Williams College on Monday, dropping the doubleheader with the scores 4-3 in game one and 9-3 in game two.
With the losses, La Verne moved to 10-14 overall and 6-6 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
They currently sit at third place in the SCIAC standings.
Interim head coach Henry Moranchel remains hopeful despite the losses and saw a silver lining in playing their fifth ranked team of the season.
“We played a well-coached team with a lot of depth,” Moranchel said. “We showed that we have the ability to play at that caliber and that’s something to build on and take into conference play this weekend.”
Sophomore Jiana Rojo got the start for La Verne in game one. She entered the game ranked fourth in SCIAC in wins, 6, and second in strikeouts, 62.
The Ephs began the game aggressive on the base paths. After junior pitcher Rebecca Duncan drew a walk and senior first baseman Mackenzie Murphy hit a long single to advance Duncan to third, Murphy stole second base, allowing Duncan to score on a double steal.
On the pitching side, Duncan silenced the Leopards’ hot bats and pitched a 1-2-3 inning to keep the Ephs’ 1-0 lead after one inning.
At the top of the second inning, senior shortstop Jessica Kim singled and advanced after a sacrifice ground out by sophomore designated hitter Jenny Hickey that caused a chase down between the La Verne infield and Kim, whose speed beat the throw to third base.
Senior right fielder Jill Jenkin hit a single up the gut to extend the Ephs’ lead to 2-0.
La Verne got a run back after a sacrifice bunt from senior left fielder Rachel Ogata, scoring senior catcher Melissa Garcia off a defensive error.
With junior shortstop Ashley Soto on third and two outs, senior center fielder Carly Condon hit a sacrifice ground out to second to bring home Soto, advancing Ogata to third.
Junior third baseman Kathryn Navarro brought in Ogata to give La Verne the 3-2 lead after two innings.
In the seventh inning, Ephs freshman third baseman Mara Kipnis, who entered the game first in New England Small College Athletic Conference play with four home runs, drew a walk and stole second.
Senior outfielder Kristina Alvarado followed up with a walk and both players advanced after a wild pitch from Rojo.
Junior Riley Salvo pinch hit for the Ephs, glancing a single off Soto’s glove to score Kipnis and Alvarado, giving them the 4-3 victory.
Game two was a slug-fest for Williams, as their offense sparked early. Sophomore first baseman Casey Pelz hit a double to left center to bring home Jenkin from first to give the Ephs a 1-0 lead after two innings.
Junior pitcher Lexie Raasch got the start for La Verne, but could not contain Williams’ offense. After Duncan reached on a fielder’s choice in the third inning, Kipnis hit her fifth home run on the year, to increase the Ephs’ lead to 3-0.
Murphy followed with a solo home run to right field to give her team a 4-0 heading into the bottom of the third inning.
Navarro reached on a fielder’s choice after junior designated hitter Kayla Giannatasio was out at second after being hit by a pitch.
Sophomore first baseman Gabriella Underwood hit a single through the right side to get on base. With two on and two outs, junior shortstop Shelby Tevis doubled to left field to cut the Ephs’ lead into half at 4-2 after three innings.
Underwood said the biggest takeaway from facing Williams was the importance of being a good teammate and coming together as a team.
“I think what I can learn is cheering my teammates on when they’re struggling and getting on base to help my team out,” Underwood said.
La Verne’s defense hit a rough patch in the fourth inning, committing four errors, which allowed Williams to capitalize, scoring three runs and extend its lead to 7-2.
Navarro highlighted the importance of learning from each game, particularly from the many errors the Leopards made throughout the day.
“We’re just going to have to practice really hard and learn from our mistakes,” Navarro said. “It’s not a loss, it’s a learning process we have to go through.”
The Ephs’ bats heated up again during the fifth after Raasch gave up two walks and a double to load the bases with no outs. Freshman pitcher Amber Stewart came in and gave up two runs off a walk by freshman right fielder Rachel Neugart and a sacrifice fly from Kipnis.
Freshman pitcher Maya Hartman entered the game in the fifth inning and only allowed one run from senior right fielder Sienna Kendricks, who hit an RBI single in the seventh inning. Williams would pick up the victory 9-3.
With the loss, the Leopards drop to 10-14 overall and 6-6 in SCIAC.
La Verne will travel to Thousand Oaks for a doubleheader against Cal Lutheran at noon and 2 p.m. Saturday.
Nicolette Rojo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.