The Leopards baseball team continued to establish their dominance with two wins over the Occidental Tigers in a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference doubleheader Saturday at Ben Hines Field.
The Leopards won game one, 4-2, and won game two, 8-0.
Game one started out as a defensive battle between both teams, neither team allowing each other to build any sort of momentum throughout the first few innings.
“We were having a tough time getting any momentum going offensively and so it created a little more pressure than normal,” said head coach Scott Winterburn. “We just weren’t getting our hits like this team is used to doing.”
A single to left field from senior second baseman Ryan Galan in the first inning and a single to center from junior shortstop Jacob Benson in the third inning were the only hits the Leopards could deliver within the first four innings.
Occidental broke the scoreless tie in the fourth inning with a sacrifice fly from sophomore third baseman Gus Patrick to bring home senior center fielder Jack Brancheau to make it a 1-0 game.
The next two innings brought back much of the offensive struggles each team experienced through the earlier portion of game one.
Action finally picked up once the game entered the seventh inning. A base hit along with three walks allowed Occidental to get a runner to home plate and extend their lead in game one.
Occidental’s lead ended once the Leopard’s offense took over at the bottom of the seventh.
Freshman center fielder Brandon Shiota opened things up with a triple to left center, giving the Leopards their best chance to score a run all game.
Junior left fielder Charlie Verrone followed Shiota’s triple with a two-run home run that just passed over the left field wall to tie the game.
“A man on third, no outs, we’re only down by two. The idea is to hit the ground ball and get that guy in” said Verrone. “Fastball on the inner half of the plate, why not take a hack at it? By all means it got the guys fired up so that was the plan all along.”
A second triple hit by senior third baseman Lukas Granado helped Benson reach home plate and give the Leopards their first lead of the game.
Benson added one more run in the eighth with an RBI single up the middle giving the Leopards a 4-2 lead and ultimately the victory in game one.
Game two began with great defense and pitching from both sides as neither team was able to gain any offensive momentum.
The stalemate ended in the third inning in favor of the Leopards as Galan reached home thanks to a throwing error giving the Leopards their first of many runs in game two.
The Leopards added to their lead in the fourth inning by loading the bases following back to back walks and a fielding error.
An additional walk allowed freshman first baseman John Bike to reach home and give the Leopards a 2-0 lead.
Senior pitcher Christopher Arcos, along with the rest of the Leopard’s defense, continued to shut out Occidental through the first five innings.
Arcos allowed three hits and zero runs while striking out two batters during his five innings of work.
“I think I commanded the zone really well,” said Arcos. “The zone was kind of tight today, I just felt like I weathered the storm, just going out there and throwing strikes for my team.”
Occidental had an opportunity to score in the sixth inning, getting a runner all the way to third. But a clutch strikeout by senior pitcher A.J. Jimenez ended those hopes immediately.
The Leopards added a third run in the sixth thanks to an RBI triple from senior center fielder Brandon Vogel.
The Leopards continued to build their lead in the seventh inning. A huge RBI triple from Bike allowed two runners to reach home and give La Verne a commanding 5-0 lead.
“The whole game I had been hunting fastballs, just trying to get them” said Bike “I choked up on the bat a bit, tried to get the barrel to this one. He threw it right down the middle and I caught the barrel and it went right where I wanted it to get to, right in the gap.”
The Leopards would add three more runs before the end of the game.
The Leopards shut out Occidental, 8-0, in game two.
The two wins give the Leopards a 25-9 overall record and a 12-6 conference record.
This moves La Verne into a second place tie with Cal Lutheran, although La Verne has a better overall record. Chapman is in first place with a one game lead.
Next up for the Leopards is a three-game series against conference opponent Whittier beginning at 3 p.m. Friday at Ben Hines Field. The series will shift to Memorial Field in Whittier for a doubleheader Saturday. Game one starts at 11 a.m. and game two begins at 2:30 p.m.
Christopher Livingston can be reached at email@example.com.