Adam Van Lul
The Leopards bounced back following a disappointing 4-1 away loss to Cal Lutheran, as they hosted the final two games of the series last weekend, shutting out the Regals 8-0 in game one then winning game two handily, 11-3.
With the wins the team’s record improved to 10-4 on the season and 4-2 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Neither offense could muster any runs off either starter through the first three innings
La Verne finally broke through in the fourth when senior first baseman Katheryn Navarro sent a fly ball over the center field wall for a two-run home run.
“We were struggling in the beginning but we put some runs on the board in the fourth,” Navarro said. “I just wanted to put the ball in play.”
Navarro’s home run ignited the offense and the Leopards broke the game wide open in the fifth inning.
After a hit-by-pitch and back-to-back singles, La Verne threatened with the bases loaded with two outs.
A solid single to left by senior third baseman Justice Borden scored junior second baseman Niyah Brown, increasing the lead to 3-0.
The very next batter, Navarro, drew a bases-loaded walk, scoring freshman left fielder Marissa Acosta.
Navarro was the last batter Regals junior starting pitcher Meghan Henry faced. Though she breezed through the first three innings, Henry struggled to record the final out of the fifth inning. She was ultimately charged with seven runs, six earned, on 87 pitches.
With two outs and the bases still loaded, senior reliever Brittany Workman was brought in to face freshman center fielder Taylor Gray.
Gray singled to center field and drove in two more runs before a third scored on an errant throw to first base. The Leopards led Cal Lutheran 7-0 and never looked back.
“I just wanted to get a base hit,” Gray said. “I wanted to score more runs to give us more energy in the dugout. I could tell that she was a little slower, so I just waited on the ball a little more to drive up the middle.”
The team added one more run in the sixth on an RBI single by Brown.
Game one went no further than that. With an 8-0 lead, mercy was called and La Verne had their ninth win of the season.
Leopards freshman starter Rachel Rubio dominated, throwing a complete game, three hit shutout on 69 pitches. Her 2.60 ERA ranks third among pitchers in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“I knew I just couldn’t let them score,” Rubio said. “We kind of struggled with our bats yesterday so I just wanted to keep it even with our score, keep our team in it.”
The Leopards picked up right where they left off in game two. With a six-run fourth inning and another stellar outing by junior starting pitcher Jiana Rojo, La Verne roared to an 11-3 win.
Head coach Dennis Blas praised his team’s complete effort after the game.
“We finally clutched up when we had people on base. We hadn’t been scoring lately but everyone did their job. Today we hit very well with people on base and that’s important to stay competitive in SCIAC,” Blas said.
On Monday the Leopards played another doubleheader, this time against the Worcester Polytechnic Institute Engineers.
La Verne took game one 5-4 on a Navarro walk-off home run, but dropped game two by a 12-2 final.
The team will next face the University of Dallas Crusaders at home on Monday.
Adam Van Lul can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.