Leopards start strong in home opener against Division II Toros

Sarah Van Buskirk
Sports Editor

The La Verne baseball team showed up against the California State Dominguez Hills Toros on Friday afternoon at Ben Hines Field in a 9-4 win for their first non-conference game of the season. 

“I think we did a lot of things pretty well for our first game,” head coach Scott Winterburn said. “It was nice to get a win against a good Division II opponent.”

With sophomore pitcher Jaylon Fong starting on the mound for the Leopards, the Toros were at-bat first. The Leopards gave up a base hit but soon sent away the Toros after a fly out and two strikeouts. 

Wasting no time, the Leopards were eager to get on the board first. Sophomore infielder Anthony Salcedo led off by being hit by a pitch. Junior center fielder Drew Reddick hit a sacrifice bunt that advanced Salcedo to second. Junior first baseman Tanner Siffert then singled into left field, which pushed Salcedo to third. Junior outfielder Brandon Shiota hit a fielder’s choice to the shortstop to drive in Salcedo to make the score 1-0. Sophomore utility player Cameron Slessor then grounded out to first, ending the inning.

“We were able to capitalize on their pitchers’ mistakes which allowed us to jump on that lead,” Siffert said.

The bottom of the second inning was the most exciting for the Leopards. It started off with a walk by junior first baseman John Bike, followed by freshman outfielder Logan Reese being hit by a pitch. 

The Toros’ infield and coach grouped up on the mound as the pressure started to gain on them.

Sophomore infielder Chase Siffert hit a sacrifice bunt to the pitcher, advancing Bike and Reese to second and third. Sophomore catcher Manuel Munoz added to the Leopards’ score with an RBI groundout, bringing Bike home. 

Back at the top of the order, Salcedo bunted Reese home. The Leopards now led 3-0.

“Our whole mindset throughout the game was to start hot and stay hot,” Salcedo said. “We wanted to stay strong through the whole game and I think we did that.” 

The momentum remained hot for the Leopards when Reddick singled and Salcedo advanced to second. Tanner Siffert was back up to bat and quickly made his way to first after he was hit by a pitch to load the bases. 

Shiota followed with a drive into the warning track for a bases-clearing triple. Slessor then knocked the ball into the gap in left field for an RBI and Shiota scored, pushing the score to 7-0.

The inning finally concluded for the Leopards when Bike hit a pop out to second. 

In the top of the third inning, the Toros woke up and rallied in two runs. With two outs and a man on third, a pop fly relieved the Leopards and stopped them from allowing any more runs, 7-2.

The bottom of the third inning began and a pitching change for the Toros took place. This was a quick 1-2-3 inning for the Leopards. 

The top of the fourth was just as quick as the last but for the Toros when Leopard senior pitcher Sean Holt relieved Fong at the mound.

“We’re finding out that if we play our brand of baseball, we can beat teams like Cal State Dominguez Hills,” Fong said. “Our brand of baseball works against any team, even the best.”

In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Leopards added to their lead. First at bat was Salcedo with a single right over shortstop into center field. Reddick followed with a base hit to second. An error by the Toros senior first baseman Pierson Loska allowed Reddick to advance to second and Salcedo to head home. The Leopards now led 8-2.

Tanner Siffert then singled Reddick to third. Shiota followed with another crucial hit, an RBI single to drive in Reddick. The Leopards’ lead grew to 9-2.

In the fifth inning, the Toros added another run when a hit to the warning track brought their man on first home, making the game 9-3. The offense went quiet for both teams, until the eighth inning when the Toros found home plate one last time after a homerun to make the score  9-4.

Junior pitcher Alfredo Frey relieved Holt in the ninth to close out the game.

“We see the results of the game and it definitely motivates us to keep working and keep getting better because we need to be able to do that all the time,” Bike said.

The Leopards took on Cal State Dominguez Hills again on Saturday but this time with a 9-4 loss. La Verne will host Chapman on Feb. 19, for another non-conference game.

Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at sarah.vanbuskirk@laverne.edu.

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Sports Editor
Journalism Major
University of La Verne ‘24

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