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The La Verne baseball team concluded regular season play splitting doubleheader with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Saturday. The Leopards took the victory in game one, 9-2, while the Stags bounced back in game two to win, 5-2.
It was also Senior Day for the Leopards, as they celebrated the careers of 13 players with a pregame ceremony.
For senior center fielder Brandon Vogel, his mindset going into the final regular season SCIAC matchup was doing whatever possible to get the victory.
“I care more about winning than me personally,” Vogel said. “I just want to do whatever I could to help us win and beat the other team. We always like to beat CMS, so it’s always fun beating them.”
With the win, La Verne clinched the second place spot in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play and home-field advantage in the first round of postseason play.
Game one started as a pitching duet between freshman pitcher Diego Avila of CMS and junior pitcher Devon Burhans of La Verne.
Neither team scored until the bottom of the fourth inning, when senior third baseman Lukas Granado singled to right center after miscommunication from the Stags’ outfielders, bringing home senior designated hitter Christopher Peres and loading the bases.
Junior shortstop Jacob Benson drew a walk to bring home senior left fielder Christopher Ligot.
With the bases still loaded and one out, freshman centerfielder Jacob Barriga crushed a double to right field, scoring Granado and junior rightfielder Charlie Verrone.
After senior second baseman Ryan Galan grounded out to short, junior catcher Adam Santa Cruz drew a walk with the bases loaded to bring home Benson.
The Leopards led 5-0 after four innings.
“I had a pretty good practice this week and had a couple good at bats yesterday coming in off the bench, so I was pretty confident and comfortable coming in,” Barriga said. “I got my pitch and I didn’t miss it.”
Throughout the game, La Verne’s plate discipline showed as they drew 12 walks as a team, with three during the bottom of the fifth inning.
Freshman first baseman Tanner Siffert and Galan both drew bases-loaded walks to increase the lead to 7-0 after five innings.
During the top of the sixth inning, the Stags earned their second hit of the game, when junior catcher Truman Miller opened it up with a quick single up the middle.
However, the Leopards successfully retired the next three batters with a fielder’s choice and two fly outs.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Avila struck out Ligot and jammed designated hitter Peres to ground out to junior shortstop Zach Clarke.
However, senior infielder Ryan Aguilar made his first plate appearance of the game as a pinch hitter and crushed a solo shot to right field off a 2-0 count to increase La Verne’s lead to 8-0 after six innings.
“We were getting a lot of walks, so I was just trying to make sure to get a good pitch to hit,” Aguilar said. “With a 3-0 count, you usually take it to see if he can throw a strike, I saw a pitch that I liked and drove it.”
After shutting out the stags for two consecutive innings, La Verne started the bottom of the eighth inning with a single from Vogel.
He advanced to second base on a passed ball and after Granado lined out to right field, Benson reached first base off an infield single. Barriga followed by drawing a one out walk to load the bases for Galan, who brought home Vogel off a fielder’s choice. After eight innings, the Leopards led 9-0 over the Stags.
During the ninth inning, the Stags gave one last effort to spark a comeback after a single to left center from freshman second baseman Marco Castillo.
With two outs, junior centerfielder Henri Levenson hit a two-run home run to right field to cut the Leopards’ lead to 7 and ending Burhans’ shutout.
Senior relief pitcher Ethan Fulsher subbed in for Burhans and jammed senior first baseman Jack Savard to ground out to himself, giving La Verne the 9-2 victory.
Burhans picked up his sixth win on the season.
Burhans said that the keys to excel during postseason is to take one game at a time and not overworking each time.
“Just remember that it’s just another game and try not to do too much,” Burhans said. “Do what we’ve been practicing this whole time.”
The Stags picked up the victory in game two, with a score of 5-2 and sophomore pitcher Brandon Mitchell getting credit with the win after going eight innings and striking out three players.
Benson scored both runs for the Leopards, while Levenson, senior right fielder Nick DeGallier and Miller all picked up RBIs for the Stags.
La Verne finished with a 29-11 overall record and 16-8 in SCIAC play.
CMS finished with a 19-14-1 overall record and at a 12-12 record in SCIAC play.
The Leopards will host Occidental at 3 p.m. Friday in the opening round of the SCIAC Postseason Tournament.
Nicolette Rojo can be reached at email@example.com.