Sebastián Abdon Ibarra
LV Life Editor
A defensive miscue in the ninth of game one and a bullpen meltdown in game three turned a potential three game sweep of Cal Lutheran into a 1-2 series loss for the Leopards over the weekend.
La Verne lost game one, 4-3, due in part to a great defensive play by Cal Lutheran and a costly error on defense with two out in the ninth.
The game featured great pitching performances for both sides. Kingsmen junior starter Alexander Rivas was cruising through the first five innings, striking out the side in the first and not allowing a baserunner until the fourth inning. Meanwhile, Leopard starter Sean Holt continued his impressive season. The junior went four innings while allowing one run and striking out three. Holt now owns a 2.57 ERA on the year.
It was a tight contest throughout, with La Verne trailing for most of the game. The Leopards were finally able to score in the sixth inning and then take the lead in the seventh on a two out, two RBI base hit from sophomore center fielder Tanner Siffert.
It seemed that would be all the run support sophomore reliever Alfredo Frey would need to close out the game. Frey pitched 2.2 innings out of the bullpen and should have been the winning pitcher.
“I was feeling good, just hitting my spots and executing pitches,” Frey said.
In the top of the ninth with two outs Siffert, who was moved from center field to first base, dropped a routine pop-up that would have ended the game.
“Our coaches teach us about living moment to moment and not worrying about stuff that happened in the past. Control the things that we can control. So after I made that error in the ninth inning I knew I had to be ready for the next moment because if I wasn’t ready the ball would come right back to me and I would make another error. So I couldn’t live in the past and had to be ready for the next pitch,” Siffert said.
The Kingsmen took advantage of this mistake to tie the game at 3-3 in the ninth. They went on to win the game in 10 innings after a go-ahead home run by senior first baseman Zach Bullard, his second of the day.
Head coach Scott Winterburn explained what he tells his teams after a bad loss.
“You do the best you can, you regroup and let it go down the drain. Come back in a couple of days and try it again,” he said.
Still, Winterburn applauded the performances from Holt and Frey.
“It’s big, gotta take your hat off to their pitcher, he did a really nice job. Our guys were keeping us in the game and it was a great performance by those two guys,” Winterburn said.
In the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader on the road in Thousand Oaks, it was the exact opposite situation as game one. La Verne would score two runs to tie the game in the top of the ninth inning to force the game to extras and score one in the 10th to steal a game from the Kingsmen, 7-6.
Six different Leopards drove in runs, and Chase Siffert, freshman second baseman, would be the hero in extras. Cameron Slessor, freshman third baseman, singled to open up the 10th. He advanced to second on a wild pitch and took third on a sacrifice bunt. Siffert singled him in to give La Verne the lead and ultimately the win.
Brenden Bergan, La Verne senior relief pitcher, got his first win of the season after pitching the last two innings without surrendering a run. Kingsmen senior Zach Hardman was the losing pitcher.
The final game was another hard loss for the Leopards to swallow. They lost, 9-8, after leading for much of the game.
La Verne jumped out to a quick lead with a four-run first inning, and it looked like La Verne would win its first series of the year. However, the bullpen squandered a 6-0 lead in the sixth inning when three Leopard pitchers combined to allow eight runs.
The La Verne offense attempted to make another comeback by scoring two runs in the top of the ninth, but ultimately fell one short.
Freshman Tristan Dupont picked up the win and senior Clay Rickerman got the save for the Kingsmen. Ben Aguilera, junior La Verne reliever, was charged with the loss.
The Leopards begin this weekend’s series on the road for a game against the Redlands Bulldogs. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. Friday. The action then returns to Ben Hines Field for a doubleheader starting at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Sebastián Abdon Ibarra can be reached at email@example.com.