The Leopards baseball team came back from a five run deficit in their doubleheader against Whitman last weekend, and in doing so the Leopards evened out their overall record and currently stand 9-9 overall.
Whitman has a history of being a tough opponent, taking last year’s national champion to five games in the super regional.
But they were no match for the Leopards as La Verne swept both games against the Blues in Saturday’s doubleheader.
The Leopards got off to a rough start by making two errors in the top of the first that led the Blues to score the first run of the game.
However, the Leopards managed to hold Whitman at one run and scored in the bottom of the first with an RBI double to right center by senior catcher Adam Santa Cruz.
Whitman immediately retaliated in the top of the second with two runs, putting them in the lead, 3-1.
It was not until Leopards sophomore outfielder Brandon Shiota doubled with a hit to right center field, sending home sophomore first baseman Tanner Siffert and junior center fielder Patrick Keller that tied the game at 3-3.
The two runs did not seem to be enough for the Leopards as senior shortstop Jacob Benson singled, preventing the Blues from scoring for the rest of the game.
The Leopards sealed their win, 4-3.
The start of the second game mimicked the first.
The Leopards were slow to fight back as Whitman came out in the top of the first with a pair of RBIs from the Blues junior infielder Matthew Sox and sophomore infielder Leo Rivera.
The Blues progressed the score by three runs within the top of the second and third inning, putting them up, 5-0.
It was not until the top of the third when the Leopards head coach Scott Winterburn swapped junior pitcher Sean Holt for freshman pitcher Matthew Dodd.
From that point forward, Dodd managed to keep the Blues offense off the board for the rest of the game.
He notched a career high of eight strikeouts while pitching from the top of the third through the eighth inning.
“Young guy Dodd, he really outdid it today,” Winterburn said. “He really did what maybe he was ready for, but he was the guy that stopped it for today and gave his team the chance to come back.”
Dodd said that his mentality going into the game was to keep his team in the ball game and stay process oriented in order to get the win.
“We talked about it all week, staying determined, staying disciplined,” Dodd said. “I think we stuck with that and it got us a W.”
The Leopards managed to come together and contribute offensively in the bottom of the sixth inning and solidified the score of the second game, 7-5.
Staying intensely process oriented and having a strong mentality seemed to be the main priority in all of the player’s minds going into the weekend.
“We had a good week of practice this last week on trying to get into a process where our kids can trust it instead of not knowing what they are doing so much,” Winterburn said.
He added that the team’s goal is to approach the process of technique work in a calm and trusting way and ultimately get better at the game they’ve been trained to play.
Santa Cruz attributes the stress of the common mentality to the timidness that the team has had.
“Today’s mindset was more of keeping our energy and doing what’s expected of us,” Santa Cruz said. “We have a really young team. We tend to be too perfect, but you just gotta remember it’s big kids playing a little kid’s sport.”
Siffert described another mentality that the team applies which is known as the nine-on-one mentality.
He said that this approach prevents them from getting too high or too low and keeps the team level headed.
“The nine-on-one mentality is the nine players on our team on our starting lineup versus that one pitcher,” Siffert said. “So we try to execute that each and every day.”
Siffert had a total of six quality at bats, three of which were crucial RBIs.
Santa Cruz added that it is not simply about the physical things such as stats that will bring this team to victory, but rather character.
“My goal for this year is to be that senior, be remembered as a leader,” Santa Cruz said. “And that everyone remembers me as that senior that taught them how to play Leo baseball.”
The Leopards will face the Occidental Tigers on Friday in a late added non-conference game at 3 p.m. at Ben Hines Field.
Noelle Blumel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.